by Megan K. Mertz
Throughout The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod’s (LCMS) history, its two auxiliaries — the International Lutheran Laymen’s League (LLL) and the Lutheran Women’s Missionary League (LWML) — have played a vital role in extending the ministry and mission of the LCMS.
In their own unique ways, these two organizations provide the support, resources and staff to increase the reach of the Gospel both at home and around the world.
One example: the creation of a self-sustaining Lutheran church body in Korea.
That was the goal of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS) when it sent three American missionaries and a Korean pastor to Seoul, South Korea, in 1958.
Soon, others joined the mission effort, walking together to share the Gospel among a people still struggling to recover from the devastation of war.
Lutheran groups in the United States sent material aid to the country’s widows, orphans and blind.
In 1959, the LLL established an office in the LCMS mission headquarters. By 1962, “The Lutheran Hour” was being broadcast in Korean on eight radio stations, and 80 individuals were enrolling in the LLL’s correspondence courses every day.
In 1971, God blessed the work of these partners when the Lutheran Church in Korea (LCK) became an independent church body and was accepted into altar and pulpit fellowship with the LCMS.
During the next two decades, the LWML gave $357,000 in grants to support a multi-ministry center, new church plants, construction of a dormitory at the LCK’s seminary and scholarships for seminary students.
Here’s a brief history of each auxiliary and its impact on the Synod:
International Lutheran Laymen’s League
In June 1917, a group of 12 laymen attending the Synod convention in Milwaukee met together to discuss the perplexing problem of the Synod’s $100,000 debt — a staggering sum at the time. In one evening, they pledged $26,000 and came up with a plan — later blessed by the convention — to deputize lay delegates to reach each district and congregation to raise the additional funds.
Six months later, despite the uncertainties of World War I, the newly formed LLL delivered $114,000 to the Synod, and the debt was wiped out.
From this extraordinary beginning, the LLL went on to raise $2.7 million to fund a pension plan for professional church workers and their widows and orphans. The interest from this endowment fund continues to help retired church workers today as the LCMS Veterans of the Cross Fund.
Next, the LLL turned its focus to supporting Gospel proclamation through the establishment of KFUO Radio and equipping laymen to serve the Church. In 1930, it began a weekly radio program called “The Lutheran Hour,” which is now the longest-running Christian outreach broadcast in the world, airing on 1,400 stations across the United States and Canada.
Today, the LLL carries out media outreach through Lutheran Hour Ministries (LHM) in St. Louis. LHM currently has ministry centers run by local staff in 34 countries. These centers carry out LHM’s mission of “Bringing Christ to the Nations—and the Nations to the Church” through mass media ministries, including radio and TV programming, the Internet, dramas, music, Bible Correspondence Courses, printed materials and other culturally relevant programs.
“LHM provides a significant and high-profile voice for the Gospel and the LCMS,” said LCMS President Rev. Dr. Matthew C. Harrison. “Rev. Gregory Seltz is an outstanding preacher, and we are blessed as a church body to have him as the Lutheran Hour speaker. Additionally, LHM provides a Gospel voice worldwide in many far-flung places. The reach is astounding.”
Lutheran Women’s Missionary League
In July 1942, just weeks after World War II’s Battle of Midway, more than 100 women from 15 LCMS districts met in Chicago for the inaugural convention of the LWML. This new national women’s organization was more than a decade in the making.
The mission of the organization, delegates agreed, was “to assist each woman of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod in affirming her relationship with the Triune God so that she is enabled to use her gifts in ministry to the people of the world.” An important component of this was to gather funds for mission projects not covered by the Synod’s budget.
The LWML encouraged its members to save their pennies, nickels and dimes in “Mite Boxes,” a practice that was common among Lutheran women in the 1900s. Through these voluntary offerings, the LWML has provided more than $100 million for Christian outreach at home and abroad.
Medicine. Bibles. Church buildings. Respite for missionary families. Care for the disabled and orphaned. These are just a few of the many projects in 42 countries that the LWML has supported with its “mighty mites” during its 72-year history.
“We are truly blessed by the LWML,” said Harrison. “The LWML offers profound encouragement in Christ for thousands of women of the Missouri Synod. Through a simple device called a ‘Mite Box,’ these faithful women have provided millions of dollars for the proclamation of the Gospel and the advance of the Lutheran church all over the world. The organization encourages women to learn leadership skills, while deepening their knowledge of and joy in Christ.”
Megan K. Mertz is a staff writer for LCMS Communications.