It was a Sunday afternoon that Dan and I made the trek to Springfield for the 18th Missouri District Convention. Before you check out and toss this article aside, I hope you take a moment to read and hear about some of the many exciting things going on within our own district and synod at large.
I have to be honest, with this being my first convention I was a little nervous and wondered what on earth we would do for three days in a convention setting. I had heard all sorts of things from predecessors, so I did not know what to expect walking into the convention hall. I was pleasantly surprised! The overall theme introduced Sunday night during worship focused on Life Together (Rom 12:4-5), an appropriate topic for the Church today. For a more detailed survey of what happened at the convention as well as resolutions and workbook materials, I encourage you to check out the district website.
One of the key elections was for the office of president; the results are as follows: Ray Mirly (President), Lee Hagan (1st Vice Pres.), Kevin Golden (2nd Vice Pres.), Alan Wollenburg (3rd Vice Pres.), and Ron Rall (4th Vice Pres.).
I have been very impressed with President Mirly in my workings with him, although he keeps wanting to call me Steve (hmm, baby steps). He is a true man of faith with a pastoral heart that is on mission to reach the lost. He has been extremely supportive of me, Redeemer, and our change effort as we seek to engage the community God has placed us, in a more intentional way. May God bless President Mirly and his wife, Debbie, as they serve the Missouri District for another term. Matthew Harrison, the President of the LCMS, was present for the entire convention. I continue to be thoroughly impressed with President Harrison as well, who is doing a superb job leading a very diverse synod through some murky and transitional times as a Church and nation. If you have not had a chance to hear or see his responses to the HHS mandate, they are well worth the listen. He makes me proud to be a Lutheran.
In case you were wondering, we used electronic, hand-held devices to cast ballots and for large-group discussion. One of the highlights for me was catching up with classmates and colleagues in ministry who helped shape the pastor I am today (Dan, I really wasn’t avoiding you, I promise). I had many great conversations about the future of the Church that both challenged and inspired my thinking!
There are really exciting things going on the district and synod at large. President Mirly reported several new mission ministries growing across the state. Did you know there are currently more than 35 active mission initiatives being conducted? The churches highlighted in his report were doing incredible things in their local communities, thriving in taking the ministry to where the people are. President Harrison reported that the synod’s $15.5 million deficit has been reduced to $8 million and projects that we will finish the year in the black. Both Mirly and Harrison challenged churches to continue funding the district. In 2011, 25% of congregations submitted no offering to the district. I am proud of Redeemer for our continued support in this area which allows the district to fund new mission opportunities and staff for growth.
Beyond the business aspect to the convention were several growth opportunities. In a Bible study led by President Harrison, he focused on the power of the Word of God. During his presentation Harrison introduced a three-part emphasis of the synod around three key areas: witness, life together, and mercy. The key section of scripture this theme flows from is 1 John 1:1-4. The key word of focus in this section of Scripture is fellowship, which in the Greek is koinonia. The glue that puts us together is Jesus; true koinonia is grounded and flows from this place. What a beautiful image for the Church!
Harrison also challenged the pastors to be in the Word and to encourage their people to be in the Word as well. He said, “Get into the Word! There is power there … it makes alive, it informs!” One of the highlights for me was when he said, “If these dry bone, if this Synod shall live, it will come from repentance and the Word of God and nothing else.” He went on to say that “a church without witness is dead.” We have the Almighty Word of God, the Bible, breathing its fresh wind of promise and encouragement on our backs. It is both a double-edged sword and the foundation upon which “His” Church is built.
Rev. Dale Meyer, President of Concordia Seminary (St. Louis) was the essayist for the convention. He opened his time speaking about how we often talk “about” God but not “to” Him, and so modeled his two presentations around a spoken prayer. If we are not careful we can become so busy talking about the work of the Church rather than the purpose of it all, “confusing the work of what we’re doing instead of the One we’re doing the work for.” Meyer also spoke about what a great time it is to be in ministry. All too often we get down on ourselves as we look at the huge uphill climb standing before us. Yes, there is a climb, but remember that the essence of following Christ is we live by faith, not by sight. Thus, we can take great comfort and solace in His Word, “We are ‘in’ that story, the Bible is not a sequel, our life is in it, we ‘are’ that story…. Why do we act as if we’ve lost something? We have You!” We have the Almighty God on our side, who is the Lord and Author of His Church, giving us the tools, encouragement, and Spirit’s power to reach the next generation for Christ.
All in all, it was a great convention! It is a great time to be in ministry!
In the grip of Jesus!