Five Two Wiki and Best Practices Conferences

Conference 1The first title above may sound a bit strange for a conference name, especially one hosted by an LCMS congregation with 700 excited participants who are almost all LCMS folks. It’s going on this week in Katy, Texas. Attendees from around the country are quite a bit younger than the average LCMS member, most of them having strong interest in mission and ministry.

The second conference referenced above is what its title describes—a conference whose presenters share with leaders who attend the conference best ministry practices that are working well in their congregations. My sense is that the average age of the 600 also excited attendees at this conference, held in Phoenix in February, may be slightly higher than the Wiki folks, but still quite a bit younger than average. They, too, have strong interest in mission and ministry.

Both of these unofficial conferences are sponsored by congregations and pastors, Bill Woolsey at Cross Point Community Lutheran in Katy and Jeff Schrank at Christ Church Lutheran in Phoenix, who sense needs begging to be met. Those needs include missional information, ideas and encouragement, presented without the distraction of political motivation or controversy.

These conferences attract people focused on figuring out how best to communicate the Gospel to people not attracted to church as most of us know it. The worship is mostly “contemporary” and quite spirited. The atmosphere is saturated with Scriptural teaching and preaching. The concern is clearly focused on the eternal destiny of people without Christ. Most ideas and strategies shared are tried and tested. Others are more embryonic and visionary.

An important objective of these conferences is the gathering of men and women who share a focus on mission and ministry that goes beyond traditional patterns and frequently unfruitful expressions. The folks who attend are eager to learn more about how to proclaim the love of Christ in faithful ways to new generations of people who are spiritually hungry but also either not attracted to or even turned off by most of what happens in the organized church.

My commendation is hereby offered to conference organizers, sponsors and presenters, along with attendees and their congregations back home. They are the ones whose ministry and mission will benefit from the return of rejuvenated, reenergized, recommitted workers and leaders.

The mission is real! The field is ripe for harvest! The eternal destination of people who live in darkness and disbelief is at stake! God be praised for the results that his blessing on these conferences will produce!

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Responding to People in Need

Credit: USA Today

Credit: USA Today

Many people have many needs. On any day in America, Christian people in and beyond their churches demonstrate genuine care and concern in response. While this is nothing new and while many churches, both in and beyond the LCMS could also be mentioned, I’ll share in this article the stories of three LCMS congregations of which I have become aware this past week.

The first is Concordia Lutheran Church in Williston, N.D. An article in the September 12, 2013, edition of The Dickinson Press tells the story of how this congregation has been providing temporary housing for job-seekers who can’t afford other arrangements.

Unfortunately, the facilities being used for temporary lodging are not in compliance with city code. That includes inadequate bathroom facilities and lack of handicap inaccessibility.

The Williston Planning and Zoning Department has declared that until the church remodels its facilities to meet building and fire codes, including addition of fire-protection sprinklers, the church will need to discontinue its “overnighters” program. So those who would otherwise be served by Concordia’s generosity will need to sleep in their vehicles or somewhere else.

The second and third are Redeemer and Christ Lutheran Churches in Fort Collins and Aurora, Colo., respectively. Facebook postings from good friend and Redeemer’s Pastor Tim Runtsch show team members from Redeemer and Christ responding to community needs in the aftermath of the horrendous flooding in that beautiful state, especially in the Boulder area.

In a few days folks in Colorado have received rainfall equivalent to their annual average and are experiencing historic flooding as a result. Homes have been destroyed, dams have been broken, and bridges have been washed away. Working together, members from Christ and Redeemer have distributed “a huge load of goods for people in need.” Remember them in prayer.

While only a few congregations are being highlighted in this article, you and I know that they are simply but significantly representative of many others whose pastors and people are moved by the love of Christ to respond to people in need. Similar responses also come from individuals and other groups, both in and beyond the Christian community.

As you hear their stories, express to those involved appreciation for their faithful service, generous contributions and diligent labors! Perhaps you already have been or will soon be moved to respond!

One Dozen Years Ago

World Trade CenterThis past Sunday, September 8, marked the anniversary of my initial installation one dozen years ago as 12th president of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod. It was a memorable day, likely forgotten by many, surely remembered by a few.

What I remember most about that day was an overwhelming sense of humility and awe, surrounded by family, friends, past and present co-workers, and many complete strangers. We all had gathered in The Chapel of St. Timothy and St. Titus at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis.

Lots of pomp and circumstance was the order of the day. That included a procession of the 35 white-robed, red-stoled district presidents with whom I had worked for the previous decade on the Council of Presidents, the newly elected Synod vice-presidents and Board of Directors.

But what I remember even more clearly than that service of installation was what occurred three days later on Tuesday, September 11. You’ve probably figured out that one dozen years ago was the year of our Lord 2001. Our country marked that anniversary yesterday, September 11, 2013.

Anyone alive at that time and most people born since then know that what is now simply called “9/11” was a time of shock, horror, grief, death and devastation. It will be remembered, long after we’re all gone, as a turning point in America’s history.

Before 9/11 we boarded airplanes without airport security lines, time consuming shoe and outer clothing removal and X-ray scanning we must now endure in order to provide at least a modicum of safety assurance prior to boarding. How strange and frustrating in the land of the free!

All this, and much more, is a reflection of the challenges facing the church in a society and world comprised of many people, in the U.S. and beyond, who do not value God-given life. Folks who walk down chapel aisles for installation to important offices have significant responsibility in trying to change that sad reality. But we/they cannot do it alone.

Many experiences in my life, including that installation of one dozen years ago, remind me that the real work of changing the world by influencing people for Christ is done by the faithful people of God in congregations and communities. You are the ones who influence families, co-workers, neighbors and fellow citizens to be the salt and light our Lord intends us to be! (Matt. 5:13-15)

“So let your light shine before others, that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.” (Matt. 5:16) Doing so requires much more than just one dozen years!
Jerry Kieschnick with Blog Background
Dr. Gerald B. (Jerry) Kieschnick

Senseless, Needless, Evil

Gun 1Nidal Malik Hasan is a United States Army Medical Corps officer who fatally shot 13 people and injured 32 others in a mass shooting at Fort Hood, Texas, on November 5, 2009. On August 23, 2013, a jury panel convicted him of 13 counts of premeditated murder and 32 counts of attempted murder. On August 28, a panel of thirteen military officers sentenced him to death.

On August 16, Christopher Lane, a 22-year old native of Melbourne, Australia, was fatally shot in the back while jogging near his girlfriend’s home in Duncan, Okla. He had come to America on a baseball scholarship at East Central University in Ada, Okla.

Three boys – ages 15, 16 and 17 – are charged with what prosecutors call a “thrill killing.” Two are being charged with first-degree murder, as adults. The third is charged with using a vehicle in the discharge of a weapon and accessory to first-degree murder.

On August 21, an 88-year-old World War II veteran was savagely beaten by two teenagers in a parking lot in Spokane, Wash. Two male suspects assaulted Delbert Belton for no apparent reason. He died the next morning from injuries sustained in the brutal attack.

“Shorty,” as he was known by his friends, served in the U.S. Army in the Pacific during WWII and was shot in the leg during the Battle of Okinawa. Two teenagers have been arrested and charged with first-degree robbery and first-degree murder, with additional teenagers arrested and charged with rendering criminal assistance.

No matter how many times I read or hear similar stories, I’m shocked and dismayed by the senseless, needless and evil nature of these brutal crimes. All too often, but not always, the culprits are young men who perpetrate their dastardly deeds with little or no provocation or motive. In one of the cases above, the violators described themselves simply as “bored.” In other cases, sheer terrorism, motivated by misguided religious principles or promises, is the cause.

In addition to these cases, we hear and see on TV news reports and video the hundreds, even thousands of mostly young men who comprise the throngs of riotous demonstrators in places like Cairo, Egypt, and Damascus, Syria. Those demonstrations are violent and often deadly, evoking puzzlement and dismay at the absence of respect for life in their demeanor and behavior.

In all these cases, loved ones and family members of the victims are the ones who truly pay the price. I wish I could offer hope that these senseless, needless and evil killings would stop. Sadly and for many reasons, I doubt that will be the case.

Satan still walks about like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour. “Stand firm against him and be strong in your faith. Remember that your Christian brothers and sisters all over the world are going through the same kind of suffering you are.” (1 Peter 5:8-9)

Lord, have mercy!