In his presentation on LCMS Ethnic Ministries at the Making Disciples for Life Initial Gathering Jan. 9–11, the Rev. Dr. Roosevelt Gray Jr., director of LCMS Black Ministry, described a chance encounter that illustrates the far-reaching impact of the Gospel.
“I was at a rental car counter,” said Gray, “and I happened to mention that I was in town for a Lutheran gathering. The woman behind the desk said, ‘You’re a Lutheran? I know about the Lutherans!’ ”
Gray said the woman went on to relate how, as children, she and a friend attended a public school where, in her words, “We were determined to give them hell.” Eventually, she and her friend were expelled from the school and ended up attending the nearby Lutheran day school, where they continued in their campaign to give the school “hell.”
But instead, the woman told Gray, something else happened. “That pastor loved the hell right out of us,” she said.
Writing in the Winter 2020 edition of the LCMS Black Ministry Timeline newsletter, Gray notes that Christian vocation “has always been centered around the Gospel: reaching others with Christ-centered preaching, teaching, evangelizing and serving.” Gray continues:
From Peter’s confession, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16), to the Great Commission, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:16–20), we hear the proclamation of Christ and the command to reach all people — at home and around the world — with the Good News of the Gospel.
The mission work of Christ, centered on Word and Sacrament, historically has reached His people through worship and the proclaimed Word, Sunday school, parochial school, vacation Bible school, congregational life and acts of mercy. As pastors, teachers and lay members, we can encourage all believers (1 Peter 2:9) to discover their God-given gifts to serve Him. We can encourage one another to equip the saints for the work of ministry and to build up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, Savior (Eph. 4:11–13).
More than 140 years ago, the Lutheran church responded to the Great Commission by reaching out to the African American community. The first African American Lutheran Church, St. Paul Lutheran Church and School in Little Rock, Ark., was founded in 1877. It started with a Sunday school and grew to a parochial school and congregation that encouraged educators and pastors in vocations of faith and life.
Hundreds of professional church workers came from this systematic process of Sunday schools, parochial schools, VBS, and Word and Sacrament ministry in congregations. On the Alabama mission field, we see clearly how Lutheran schools and churches raised up generations of African American Lutheran pastors and teachers to carry the Good News to others. As members see pastors, educators, deaconesses and other vocations in active evangelism and acts of Christian mercy, they, too, seek to serve Christ and His church.
As I have been encouraged personally to be a servant, pastor, recruiter, facilitator of mission and ministry in the work of congregations, the seminary, LCMS districts and the Synod, I have encouraged others to seek to serve Christ and His church as pastors, educators and in other Christian vocations. Strong and committed lay leaders also help build the kingdom through their church ministries.
The Timeline newsletter is published quarterly to share how the church encourages, equips and empowers the work of the Gospel of salvation to all people. In the Winter 2020 edition, you can read about:
- The opening of St. Paul Christian Academy, an early childhood center at St. Paul Lutheran Church, Dallas.
- The Rev. Jerome Terry, pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church, New Orleans, and author of Daily As I Rise.
- Gwen Marshall, president of the Gulf States District Lutheran Women’s Missionary League and wife of the Rev. Dr. Ulmer Marshall.
- The Rev. Elstner Lewis Jr., pastor of St. Philip Lutheran Church, Chicago.
- The history of St. Philip, Chicago, the first African American Lutheran church in Chicago.
- Our Savior Lutheran Church, Indianapolis, which continued its tutoring outreach despite a devastating fire in April 2018.
- The 2020 LCMS Black Ministry Convocation.
Gray concludes his introductory letter in the Winter 2020 Timeline by noting that, like the Lutheran school in his story, “We all can share the Good News with our neighbors and others. We also can help build the kingdom by painting a picture of the wonderful value of encouraging others to serve Christ in the work of Christian vocation, especially through Word and Sacrament.
“Have you encouraged someone to become a pastor, teacher, deaconess, missionary? Please do. Christ needs you, because the world needs Christ!”
February is National Black History Month. To find out more about LCMS Black Ministry or download the current or past newsletters, visit lcms.org/blackministry.
The Rev. Jerome Terry (left), pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in New Orleans, hands out audio Bibles at the New Orleans Veterans’ Home.
Posted Feb. 3, 2020