By James Baneck
Jesus said, “Be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8). To be witnesses means to preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for the life and salvation of all people.
The Rev. Charles Ferry, director of the LCMS Asia region, recently invited me to Singapore, Vietnam and Taiwan. In Singapore, I preached at the Reformation Divine Service to a small group of people in a small office space. Pastor Ferry, along with LCMS Missionary Rev. Paul Nelson and LCMS Asia Business Manager Sam Borgwardt, prepared the altar for Holy Communion. Singapore does not have a full-time resident LCMS pastor. Forming and recruiting more LCMS missionary pastors for Asia is greatly needed to start and serve Lutheran congregations there.
In Vietnam, I visited Concordia Lutheran International School in Hanoi. Our group was graciously hosted by Dr. Doug Grove, head of the school. Concordia is a growing, state-of-the-art school serving students in preschool through high school. The school is on a beautiful campus with two multi-level buildings. One of Concordia’s greatest challenges, like that of many Lutheran schools, is the lack of commissioned LCMS schoolteachers. Concordia is a great school for a Lutheran teacher who would like to experience teaching in an international setting.
In Taiwan, we visited with the Rev. Dr. Joseph Lu, vice-president of the China Evangelical Lutheran Church (CELC), a small church body in fellowship with the LCMS. In the morning Dr. Lu, who received his Doctor of Missiology from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, shared with me the need for pastors in the CELC. The most urgent need is for LCMS missionaries to provide education and resources so the CELC can plant more churches, call pastors to serve them and ensure that the people in Taiwan may hear the pure Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In the afternoon, I spoke for two hours to approximately 20 pastors, vicars and deaconesses about the Office of the Holy Ministry, the formation of Lutheran pastors, the care and well-being of pastors and their families, and the prayer life of pastors and their families. Missionary Borgwardt translated the presentation into Chinese.
After my visit, Pastor Ferry summarized two significant outcomes. First, Set Apart to Serve staff became more familiar with some aspects of church work in Asia that were not readily apparent from our stateside research. Second, the visit brought SAS expertise to our church partners and helped them better understand what the Synod is doing to recruit and maintain church workers.
The need for church workers is great — in our LCMS congregations and schools and in our international mission work around the world. Pray to the Lord of the harvest, that through you and me, He would form, recruit and send workers into all the world to preach and teach Christ crucified, that all may hear, believe and have eternal life.
The Rev. Dr. James Baneck is executive director of the LCMS Office of Pastoral Education.
Posted Dec. 5, 2023