Leaders of ELS, LCMS, and WELS meet

About 20 leaders of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS), the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod (LCMS), and the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod (WELS) met in Florida on Nov. 27-28 to continue the informal discussions begun in 2012.

At this seventh annual meeting, participants updated each other on news from their respective synods. They also spent time discussing the doctrine of creation and its relation to science—a topic about which they found themselves in agreement on the key issues.

Looking ahead to the future, participants debated whether or not it is proper to begin formal doctrinal discussions with a view to restoring fellowship between ELS/WELS and the LCMS. Given the issues that separate us, it was decided that such a move would be premature at this time.

Rather, the group decided to continue with informal discussions, with another meeting planned for December 2019. At this meeting, the group will discuss the doctrine of justification. They also will precisely articulate and commit to writing some of the specific points of controversy between our synods.

These intersynodical discussions, conducted outside of the framework of church fellowship, have been useful in clarifying our synodical positions and in sharing information on topics of mutual interest. This latest meeting was no exception. Many participants expressed gratitude for the opportunity to get together and to keep the lines of communication open.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

An amazing mission opportunity: Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam

WELS has been given the opportunity to take the gospel to the Hmong people living in the country of Vietnam. Not only has the Hmong Fellowship Church (HFC) asked WELS to teach and train its pastors in Lutheran doctrine and practice, but WELS has also been invited by the Vietnamese government to establish a theological training facility in Hanoi.

On Dec. 1, 2018, WELS launched a special synodwide offering to support Hmong outreach in Vietnam. Through this opportunity, God’s grace can be shared with the more than 100,000 members who make up the HFC and the 2 million Hmong living in Vietnam and the surrounding countries. The goal of the “Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam” offering is to receive gifts totaling $2 million by June 30, 2019, to fund the land purchase, building construction, and the first two years of operational costs for the theological training facility in Hanoi.

Promotional resources have been created for use in congregations, schools, and other church groups. Learn more about this opportunity in the December 2018 WELS Connection and through a special brochure that was mailed to each WELS congregation. Schools can participate by designating mission offerings to “Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam.”

Many other resources are currently available for download or will be made available during the month of December. These resources include:

  • PowerPoint presentation with notes
  • Promotional poster
  • Bulletin inserts
  • Informational text to copy and paste into church bulletins as well as church and school newsletters
  • Online version of the December 2018 WELS Connection, featuring Hmong outreach in Vietnam
  • “Grace—Hmong outreach in Vietnam” logos
  • Digital display and PowerPoint graphic
  • Digital files of various print pieces: eight-page congregational brochure, four-page informational flyer, and a larger eight-page congregational brochure

Progress updates about the work in Vietnam will be shared through Together newsletter stories, weekly Missions blogs, and through WELS social media accounts. Follow the WELS and WELS Missions pages on Facebook to stay up-to-date.

To learn more about this mission opportunity, visit wels.net/vietnamhmongoutreach.

One in Jesus in Asia-Oceania

In early November, 60 Asian national church delegates and guests attended the second meeting of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC) Asia-Oceania conference. The CELC comprises 32 member churches worldwide (including WELS), all of which are united by a common faith and confession.

Sponsored by South Asian Lutheran Evangelical Mission (SALEM) in Hong Kong, the conference brought together people from CELC church bodies in Japan, Indonesia, India, South Korea, East Asia, and Hong Kong as well as from future member churches in Taiwan and the Philippines. Mission partners from WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod also attended.

The conference theme “One in Jesus” was reflected throughout the meeting, including in the papers presented on the historical practice and current practice of the Lord’s Supper and on evangelism. Group discussion after each paper enabled workers to learn from one another’s experiences.

One participant noted, “I appreciated the opportunity to talk with missionaries and local workers in other fields and know their struggles and pressures. I really care about what is happening in other countries near mine.”

A number of churches shared that there is increasing pressure to suppress Christianity in Asia, but our churches are undeterred. One participant remarked that even though “they try to mow the grass, the grass keeps coming back.”

The first Asian regional conference was held in Seoul, South Korea, three years ago. Another Asian regional conference is being planned for 2021. Other regional CELC conferences held in 2018 include a European regional meeting in Plzen, Czech Republic. The next worldwide meeting of the CELC will be held in Seoul, South Korea, in 2020.

To learn more about the CELC, visit celc.info.

Informal doctrinal discussions with the Missouri Synod continue

Representatives of the Wisconsin Synod, the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and the Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod will meet Nov. 27 and 28 for another in a series of annual informal doctrinal discussions.

These meetings have proven to be beneficial in helping the three synods better understand the doctrine and practice of one another. The meetings have opened lines of communication between the leaders of the three synods and between various groups such as those responsible for world mission efforts. The meetings have also been beneficial in providing mutual encouragement to stand firm in the areas where there is full agreement.

In previous meetings the group has focused on various areas of doctrine and practice, working to identify where we agree and where disagreements remain. Topics discussed in the past have been Church and Ministry, fellowship, the role of men and women, and principles that guide the interpretation of the Scriptures. The main focus of discussion for this year’s meeting will be to identify, from each synod’s perspective, what issues would need to be resolved—on the basis of Scripture—for fellowship to be possible.

These discussions have been termed “informal” to avoid giving the impression that they will result in a re-establishment of fellowship in the near future. Any restoration of fellowship would be possible only when the three synods are in full agreement in doctrine in keeping with the Scriptures. Even though fellowship might not be possible now, the informal discussions will continue because of the benefits and opportunities they bring.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Conference digs into developing multi-site congregations

More than one hundred pastors, teachers, staff ministers, laypeople, and other ministry leaders from across the country gathered in Pewaukee, Wis., Nov. 12-14, for the 2018 WELS National Multi-Site Conference. Attendees met to engage in discussions and activities about developing multi-site churches throughout WELS.

Multi-site churches preach, teach, and carry out other ministry work from more than one physical location. These additional sites can help the congregation share the gospel message with new people and underserved communities. In many cases, they can also gather and use resources with increased efficiency.

Rev. Ron Koehler, pastor at Grace, a multi-site church in Tucson/Sahuarita/Benson/Vail, Ariz., led the conference’s first keynote presentation. He highlighted key reasons why a congregation may launch a multi-site effort. Rev. Jon Hein, director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling , then spoke about the potential of multi-sites to expand ministry work beyond their current reach. Rev. Nathan Strutz, conference planning committee chairman and pastor of a multi-site congregation, Resurrection, Verona/Monroe, Wis., closed the conference with a final keynote presentation reviewing what multi-site strategies are and can be for WELS.

Four sessions of workshops gave attendees opportunities to hear about experiences with multi-site development directly from project leaders. Pastors, church elders, and lay leaders spoke about reaching specific audiences, managing multi-site finances, uniting under one mission, and more.

Rev. Brad Snyder, Mt. Olive, Suamico, Wis., appreciated the fellowship among attendees at the conference: “We get together, enjoy and encourage each other, and stay minded on the mission.” Mt. Olive has called a second pastor to serve at a site it is developing in Hobart, Wis.

Rev. Paul Schupmann and Rev. David Brandt serve at St. John’s, Juneau, Wis., which is officially expanding to Horicon, Wis., in June 2019. They look forward to implementing what they learned from the conference at this new multi-site.

“The key concept is to grow the kingdom and continue to enable our people to share Jesus,” Schupmann explains.

“We all struggle with limited time and resources, but I see multi-site as a way to do more with what we’ve got,” Brandt continues. “I’m excited for the possibilities.”

Rev. Jeffrey Mahnke, St. Peter, Schofield, Wis., led a workshop at the conference to share what he is learning from an ongoing merger with Salem, Wausau, Wis. For any WELS church leaders considering undertaking multi-site initiatives with their congregation, he suggests, “Think big. Start talking about what could be done for the kingdom of Christ.”

The conference was partially sponsored by an Antioch II grant. For more information about multi-site churches and other home mission work, visit wels.net/missions.

 

 

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Ministering to Millennials

In November, WELS Congregational Services launched a new set of resources aimed at helping congregations minister to Millennials, those born from 1980-2000.

“The Commission on Congregational Counseling has worked with so many churches that have identified that the Millennial generation is opting out of church on a large-scale basis,” says Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services and director of the Commission on Congregational Counseling. “I hear it from individuals too. They have a relative in their late twenties who still confesses faith in Jesus but who does not see the benefit in being a member at a church.”

Hein continues, “The Ministering to Millennials resources are meant to help congregations think through how they might better retain and gain members from this largest generation in America. However, I think individuals might benefit from it too. It can help them learn how to better understand ways to personally witness to Millennial-aged friends or neighbors. So we are hoping that everyone—congregational leadership and individual Christians—goes to welscongregationalservices.net and utilizes the Ministering to Millennial resources.”

Four videos with accompanying discussion guides are available as well as a playbook that outlines 10 important ministry behaviors to consider to retain Millennials in our congregations and when reaching out to share the gospel with them. To view these materials, visit welscongregationalservices.net, choose the “Modules” dropdown menu, and then choose “Discipleship Modules.”

For more information about ministering to Millennials, watch this “Together” video update featuring Rev. James Hein, who serves at St. Marcus, Milwaukee, Wis., which has a thriving ministry to Millennials. Hein helped coordinate the video modules on this topic for WELS Congregational Services.

 

 

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Synodical Council holds fall 2018 meeting

The Synodical Council (SC) held its fall meeting on Friday and Saturday of last week. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Larry Schlomer, administrator of the Board for World Missions, provided an overview of the work currently being done in our mission fields around the world, with an emphasis on new opportunities that are presenting themselves. A new opportunity to provide theological training to pastors of the Hmong Fellowship Church in Vietnam will be given high priority.
  • A special committee reviewing the WELS Pension Plan presented its recommendations to the SC. The SC asked the committee to study additional options and hopes a pension plan design will be prepared for consideration by the 2020 district conventions and ready for action at the 2021 synod convention.
  • Scott Neitzel was appointed to the WELS Foundation Board of Directors.
  • The Church Extension Fund (CEF) reported healthy net asset, liquidity, and cash flow numbers. Overall loan volume has been lighter than normal this year, but it is picking up in recent months. Total investments in the CEF have increased. Because of healthy net asset levels, the CEF was able to provide a special grant of $1 million to Home Missions. The WELS Foundation also reported strong financial results, enabling a transfer of its unrestricted net assets to support WELS ministries.
  • Communications Services and Northwestern Publishing House are studying how to boost readership of Forward in Christ magazine as well as increase the number of subscriptions.
  • The Ministry of Christian Giving, with the approval of the Conference of Presidents and in coordination with WELS World Missions, is conducting a special offering from December through June to build and operate a theological training center for Hmong outreach in Vietnam. Rev. Kurt Lueneburg also outlined the joint plans of Martin Luther College, the Conference of Presidents, and Ministry of Christian Giving to increase recruitment of future called workers, to provide additional financial assistance to those training for ministry at MLC, and to build a new dormitory at the college. This “Equipping Christian Witnesses” effort will be launched at the 2019 synod convention.
  • Operating fund expenses for the fiscal year that ended June 30 were $700,000 less than planned due to unfilled positions and lower than planned expenses in the president’s areas, technology, facilities, and finance, as well as lower health care costs.
  • Congregation Mission Offerings (CMO) totaled $21.2 million for the last fiscal year, which was $102,000 less than planned. Increased CMO for the coming year will be vital to ensure that ministries can be maintained at their current levels.
  • The Financial Stabilization Fund (FSF) ended the year with a balance of $14.6 million. In view of that balance, the SC had previously approved the expenditure of $400,000 toward items on the unfunded priority list adopted by the 2017 convention. Spending projections for the current year and the next biennium drop the balance more than $2 million below the $10 million minimum target for the FSF. In February, the SC will consider changes to spending levels to ensure that the balance in the FSF is maintained at a healthy level.
  • A preliminary Ministry Financial Plan (budget) was reviewed by the SC; a final plan will be adopted in February or April and brought as a recommendation to the 2019 synod convention.
  • All four synodical schools experienced increases in their net assets due to increased enrollments, increased gifts, correction of accounting errors, and lower than expected expenses. A budgetary shortfall at Michigan Lutheran Seminary (due primarily to lower than planned enrollment and lower than planned gifts from the Tomorrow’s Ministry Begins Here campaign) was addressed by reallocating funds within the special funds and the operating budget of the Board of Ministerial Education. The SC also approved the replacement of bleachers at Michigan Lutheran Seminary, to be funded by the MLS Foundation; authorized Luther Preparatory School to do preliminary planning for a possible music auditorium; and a multi-year project for the replacement of HVAC controllers at MLC.
  • WELS’ independent auditors issued an unmodified or clean opinion, the best possible, on WELS Consolidated Financial Statements for the 2017-18 fiscal year.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Hundreds gather to celebrate 125 years of Apache mission work

Over 1,200 attended the Apache 125th anniversary celebration at Peridot Lutheran church and school, Peridot, Ariz., Oct. 26–28. The event commemorated the 125th anniversary of WELS World Missions work in the Apache reservations of Arizona.

Since its humble beginnings in 1893, the Apache ministry has grown, now serving over 3,600 people in a variety of ways. Five missionaries, two Apache pastors, and one Apache evangelist serve the nine congregations on the reservations. The Apache Christian Training School (ACTS) provides education and resources to prepare leaders for sharing God’s Word on the reservations and beyond. Two schools serve over 275 students, giving them a foundational Christian education. These are just a few of the services for which attendees gave thanks at the celebration last month.

To begin the celebration, visitors spent Fri., Oct. 26, touring the San Carlos and White Mountain Apache reservations, admiring the nine WELS churches. This included Peridot Lutheran church and school, where the first missionaries, John Plocher and George Adascheck, began to share the gospel message of Jesus Christ among the Apache people.

Plocher’s great-grandson, Andrew, principal and teacher at Emmaus, Phoenix, Ariz., attended the anniversary and expressed thanks for all the people who came to the reservation to celebrate. When Plocher was asked what he thinks his great-grandfather would say about the celebration, he said, “He would just praise God.”

On Saturday, Rev. Gary Lupe, Gethsemane, Cibecue, Ariz., hosted visitors in Peridot as they enjoyed traditional Apache food and crafts. Rev. Dr. William Kessel and Rev. Eric Hartzell gave two historical presentations. Photos and artifacts from across the mission’s 125-year history were displayed along with information about future outreach plans for Native Christians.

A special worship service followed that evening at San Carlos High School. Choirs from the reservations’ churches led the visitors in worship. WELS President Rev. Mark Schroeder gave the service’s closing lesson.

“Humanly speaking, the initial efforts to reach the Apache nation with the gospel seemed to be an impossible task,” says Schroeder, reflecting after the event. “Now, 125 years later, the Apache people are still hearing the good news, are still having their faith nourished, and are still thankful for those who brought the gospel to them.”

On Sunday, all of the reservations’ congregations joined together to hold seven “Rally Day” worship services.

“The most encouraging thing about the work among the Apache people is that they are recognizing that the work of missions and ministry belongs to them,” says Schroeder. “While we are still there to help and assist, it is gratifying that the Apache people are embracing the idea of training members of their tribe to serve as pastors and teachers, looking ahead to the day when all called workers on the reservation will be Apache.”

Learn more about the Apache mission and its work at nativechristians.org. Download Bible studies related to Rev. Dr. William Kessel’s presentation.

Learn more about WELS Missions at wels.net/missions.

Apache Mission 

 

 

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Volunteers begin cleanup after Hurricane Michael

WELS Christian Aid and Relief is now coordinating volunteers to help with cleanup and rebuilding efforts after Hurricane Michael. Efforts are primarily focused on Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., which was hit directly by the storm. Amazing Grace’s church and parsonage experienced extensive damage, as did homes of several members and many in the community.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief quickly mobilized two of its relief trailers after Hurricane Michael struck the Panama City area and began coordinating volunteers to help with the cleanup project, including a group of 10 students from Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn.

“These students had so much energy and enthusiasm,” says Elizabeth Zambo of Christian Aid and Relief. “They gutted the church and parsonage that had been flooded, ripping out drywall and insulation. It was messy work, but they never complained.”

“It was an eye-opening experience,” says Hailey Stade, a sophomore at MLC and a member of Immanuel, Farmington, Wis. “I had no idea what to expect until we crossed the bridge to Panama City. Buildings were flattened. Every tree you saw was on the ground or bent in half. Power lines were all over the sides of streets and sidewalks. Large boats were tipped to their side in the water, and a building was considered lucky if it even had some of its roof intact.”

“This experience was definitely life changing,” notes Becky Pruss, a junior at MLC and a member at Redeemer, Fond du Lac, Wis. “When people who have lost so much still greet you with a smile and genuine conversation, it puts everything in perspective. Our God is definitely greater than the storms that may come our way in life. It really showed me that every day is an opportunity to live your faith.”

Zambo notes that volunteers will continue to be needed for months as work progresses on the church, parsonage, six to eight members’ homes, and homes of those in the community. Amazing Grace is currently worshiping at a nearby Christian camp facility, and its vacancy pastor, Rev. Jerome Enderle, and his wife are living in rented housing provided by Christian Aid and Relief.

Christian Aid and Relief has provided $108,000 toward this relief effort to this point, and more grant requests are expected. Monies distributed have been allocated for items such as supplies, building materials, gift cards, and volunteer expenses.

“The members of Amazing Grace have been overwhelmed by the love and support of their Christian brothers and sisters around WELS,” says Enderle. “This has served as an encouraging reminder that our small flock of believers is a part of a much larger family. The support and assistance of Christian Aid and Relief and the outpouring of gifts from people too numerous to begin to name cause us to thank and praise our Savior God. Truly he is the God of Amazing Grace.”

Christian Aid and Relief is partnering with Kingdom Workers’ Builders for Christ as the rebuilding process begins. Builders for Christ provides volunteers with building skills to serve alongside Christian Aid and Relief volunteers. To apply to serve as a volunteer to help with cleanup and relief work through WELS Christian Aid and Relief, visit wels.net/relief and fill out the volunteer form.

 

 

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New magazine series explores witnessing

This month’s issue of Forward in Christ magazine (FIC) is featuring a new series on witnessing. “Ambassadors: Help them see Jesus” will offer tips and strategies to help readers as they proclaim the gospel message to others.

“When we come to faith, we discover the love of God; he has forgiven us and given us heaven. We want to tell others about what we have, but we sometimes don’t know how to do it,” says Rev. John Braun, FIC executive editor. “We created the ‘Ambassadors’ series to provide some practical strategies for opportunities when we feel awkward telling others about Jesus. It will show how to give a simple witness about Jesus and his love.”

Authors for this 12-part series often will share personal stories as they discuss topics such as examining every unique situation, abandoning Christian jargon, avoiding arguing, and dealing with intimidators and know-it-alls. Articles will also look at the importance of praying, studying the Word, and knowing your limitations.

This series is just one part of FIC’s direction to help its readers with outreach. “We are sent to make disciples of all nations, including our relatives, friends, and neighbors. In the past months FIC has focused on the gospel, the one tool God has given us to extend his kingdom. The gospel is the power of God to salvation,” says Braun. “We have also explored the ministry of Jesus and found lessons for our evangelism efforts in his ministry.”

This emphasis directly connects with the synod’s goal to reach one million souls with the gospel message by this Christmas Eve. The Christmas Eve service theme, “A Light in the Darkness,” highlights that Jesus is the light at a time when studies suggest that many are experiencing depression and anxiety. “Our goal is simply to help our readers to speak the gospel to those still in darkness,” says Braun.

Forward in Christ also wants to highlight readers’ efforts to share Jesus. “We want our readers to share their stories about the successful witness opportunities and the failures,” says Braun. “Every opportunity to speak about Jesus is different, but we can learn from each other.” Readers can submit their stories directly to FIC by e-mailing fic@wels.net, with the subject line: “How I shared Jesus.” Forward in Christ plans to print these stories in upcoming issues.

Read the first article in the series. Subscribe to Forward in Christ to continue reading this series and other inspirational and informational articles.

 

 

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WELS VEBA offering limited open enrollment

WELS VEBA is offering a limited open enrollment period through the month of November. Eligible called workers and lay workers at a school, church, or organization that already participates in WELS VEBA are invited to sign up for health and dental benefits. The deadline to enroll is Fri., Nov. 30.

To sign up, eligible workers can go to wels.bswift.com or call the WELS Benefits Service Center at 800-487-8322.

Mr. Josh Peterman, director of WELS Benefit Plans, says, “WELS VEBA offers reliable and comprehensive benefits that are consistent with God’s Word. The plan provides coverage wherever you and your family are called to serve, and it offers a good value compared to many plans on the market that aren’t as comprehensive.”

More than 80% of WELS calling bodies participate in the WELS VEBA plan, which covers 3,500 workers and more than 10,000 total lives (including spouses and children). VEBA participants who experience a qualifying life event, such as a marriage or addition of a child to the family, do not have to wait for an open enrollment to add a dependent to their plan.

To learn more about WELS VEBA benefits, visit welsbpo.net.

 

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COP holds its fall 2018 meeting

The Conference of Presidents (COP) met for its fall meeting during the first week of October. Here are some of the highlights of that meeting:

  • The COP issued calls for three Christian giving counselors. Rev. Jonathan Stern was called to a part-time semi-retirement position to serve the Arizona-California District; Rev. Bryan Schwarz was called to serve in a full-time position serving the South Central and South Atlantic Districts; Rev. Thomas Mielke was called to serve in a full-time position serving the Northern Wisconsin District.
  • There are 106 vacancies in parish pastor positions, seven in semi-retirement positions, two in foreign mission fields, three in professor positions, and three in other pastor-trained positions.
  • The COP received a progress report from a special committee assigned to make recommendations regarding the coordination of campus worship activities and worship curriculum in our ministerial education schools.
  • The Translation Review Committee submitted its final report of its review of the Christian Standard Bible. The review will be made available soon. The committee is also currently conducting a similar review of the Evangelical Heritage Version and plans to complete that review by the end of the year.
  • The COP discussed the process for conducting discipline and carrying out suspension of called workers. It was agreed that the COP will review the synod’s bylaws dealing with this process and recommend any necessary changes to the next synod convention.
  • The COP received a report from a special committee reviewing the synod’s pension plan for called workers. The COP expressed support for the recommendations, which will be presented to the Synodical Council in November.
  • Aaron Bublitz was appointed to serve on the Commission on Discipleship.
  • The COP established age 55 as the earliest age at which a called worker may retire. Departures from the ministry prior to age 55 will be categorized as resignations.
  • The COP discussed the matter of Calvary Academy. Calvary Academy was a boarding school for troubled teens, located near Lakeland, Fla. It was a WELS-affiliated, independent, parasynodical ministry, meaning that it was a ministry carried out and supported by WELS members but was not operated by the synod or a part of the synod’s ministry. Several months ago, Calvary Academy ceased operations and declared Chapter 128 bankruptcy. This means that a lawyer has been appointed by the court to liquidate the assets of Calvary and to use those assets to pay creditors. Many WELS members had made loans to Calvary; they are now waiting to see what portion, if any, of those loans can be returned to them. It was reported to the COP that people are still sending gifts to Calvary. The COP advises that no one send additional gifts to this ministry that has been discontinued. The court has determined that any gifts received for Calvary will be forwarded to a different organization. In addition, if you have included Calvary Academy in your estate plan, the COP strongly encourages you to take steps to remove Calvary from your will.
  • The COP continued its discussion on how to provide additional assistance to the presidents of the three largest districts (Northern Wisconsin, Southeastern Wisconsin, and Western Wisconsin). A likely solution will be to make greater use of the district vice presidents in the work normally done by the district president.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

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Christian Aid and Relief Oct. 2018 update

When Hurricane Michael made landfall, Amazing Grace, Panama City, Fla., took a direct hit. Rev. Jerry Enderle, pastor at Amazing Grace, reports the church and parsonage suffered extensive damage, as did several members’ homes, along with the entire community. Rev. Joel Russow, pastor of Faith, Tallahassee, Fla., also reports trees down in the neighborhood, but the church and parsonage are okay.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief chairman, Rev. Robert Hein, reports:

“We have mobilized relief trailers from Mobile, Ala., and Jacksonville, Fla., to assist in cleanup and recovery efforts. Right now, some areas are still hard to reach and power is still out. For the short term, Risen Savior, Navarre, Fla., served by Rev. Craig Born, is serving as the relief staging area. Members of the local WELS congregations in Florida and Alabama are eager to help out once it is feasible to go into the affected areas. We have also made funds available to local pastors to provide immediate aid to those in need and to purchase needed supplies. Efforts are underway to provide temporary housing for those displaced from their homes.

“Many homes suffered roof damage, so our first priority is putting plywood and tarps on top of the parsonage and sanctuary at Amazing Grace and salvaging sanctuary furniture, and then repeating those steps for members with major loss. We will bring in a project manager soon to help us assess damage and opportunities for assistance throughout the community. We also made a $10,000 gift to Direct Relief, which provides immediate assistance to people affected by this hurricane.”

While Christian Aid and Relief is working to assess and help with the recent hurricane damage, it is also conducting ongoing rebuilding efforts in Puerto Rico in the aftermath of last fall’s Hurricane Maria. Missionary Larry W. Schlomer accepted a call to Puerto Rico in June 2018 to assist in coordinating the rebuilding and repairing of churches and pastors’ homes as well as aiding in the ongoing training of our sister church body’s future called workers.

WELS Christian Aid and Relief approved a $150,000 hurricane relief grant for phase one of repair and rebuilding in Puerto Rico, which includes rebuilding the church building in Humacao, repairing the church in Guayama, and repairing pastors’ homes. Schlomer reports that rebuilding in Humacao began earlier this fall.

To support WELS Christian Aid and Relief hurricane relief efforts, you can donate online (select “Hurricane Disaster Relief” in the designation field) or send it to WELS Christian Aid and Relief, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Dr. Waukesha, WI 53188, and designate it for the “Hurricane Fund.” If you’d like to volunteer to help with clean up and repair work, visit wels.net/relief and fill out the volunteer form.

 

 

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Record attendance at annual OWLS convention

The Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) challenged seniors to “Finish the Race” well when it held its annual convention for seniors in Elkhart Lake, Wis., Oct. 9-12.  The convention had 207 attendees from around the United States, which exceeded attendance for many recent years.

Elkhart Lake, the home of Road America, is known for its ties to auto racing, relaxation, and history. Attendees were treated to a rare opportunity to ride on the race track or visit the horse-powered world of the Wade House, a historic stage coach inn.

Discussion of finishing the Christian race was focused through presentations of keynote speakers. Former missionary wife Rebecca Wendland shared the challenges of life in Africa but also spoke of the grace and strength of God to protect and guide his people. Martin Luther College President Rev. Mark Zarling and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary President Rev. Paul Wendland gave a glimpse into the preparation of the next generation of church workers, but also answered audience questions about heaven, eternal life, and other topics. Former U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter pilot Steve Schroeder and his wife, Sarah, shared the challenges they’ve experienced running their race during Steve’s military career, both before and after a crash changed their lives. Home Missions Administrator Rev. Keith Free provided insight into the opportunities worldwide to share the gospel.

For over a decade, the OWLS have used their offerings to support the WELS European Civilian chaplaincy, which serves military personnel and WELS civilians in Europe. This year, the OWLS presented Military Services with a check for $52,000 for work in Europe. Two convention offerings and record proceeds from a silent auction were directed for next year’s gift to the work of the chaplain in Europe as well.

The OWLS also provide scholarships to Martin Luther College students. This year, Jason Petoskey, Winter Fredrick, Buchanan Potthast, and Max Kerr received scholarships. Max Kerr responded, “I can’t tell you my surprise at receiving the scholarship. It feels good to be recognized for what I always strive to do: share the gospel and serve others. Thank you very much for the scholarship. It helps me very much, as I’ve had to take out many loans in my journey to become a pastor.”

Rev. Jim Behringer, director of WELS Special Ministries, says, “This was a convention to remember! The workshops offered something for the artistic, the health conscious, tips for Internet users, and those interested in government or international students at Martin Luther College. It was a treat to renew friendships at the Osthoff Resort on Elkhart Lake when the trees were in color.”

The October 2019 OWLS convention for seniors will be held in Galena, Ill. The convention is open to all seniors in WELS and the Evangelical Lutheran Synod, regardless of OWLS membership.

 

 

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2019 synod convention planning underway

Planning has begun for the 65th biennial convention of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, which will be held at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., July 29-Aug. 1, 2019. More than 400 delegates and 50 advisory members will be meeting under the theme “For the Generations to Come.”

“Looking back on the history of God’s blessings to his church is always a good thing to do. But looking ahead to the opportunities God is giving us to carry out our mission is equally important,” says Rev. Mark Schroeder, WELS president. “The convention theme will help us to focus on the opportunities God is giving us now and the challenges we face in an increasingly hostile society. It also reminds us of the responsibility we have to pass our rich heritage of faith to our children and grandchildren so that God’s church will continue to be built by the power of his gospel.”

During the convention called workers and lay members will hear presentations, discuss issues, and make decisions related to the synod’s work, including setting a ministry plan (budget) for the next biennium. Two offices to be filled by election are the synod president and second vice president. Delegates will also elect others to serve on various boards and commissions. Voting members of WELS are encouraged to nominate qualified individuals to serve on these boards and commissions. A list of positions and descriptions is available online.

The primary source of the convention’s business is the Book of Reports and Memorials (BORAM), which contains various departmental reports as well as formal petitions to the synod convention called “memorials.” A memorial outlines a particular item of business for consideration by the delegates. The deadline for submitting memorials to be printed in BORAM is Jan. 15, 2019. Memorials submitted after Jan. 15 will not be printed but will be posted at the discretion of the synod presidium on the convention website if they are received by June 1, 2019. More information about submitting memorials can be found online.

Keep up-to-date with the synod convention at its website, wels.net/2019synodconvention.

 

 

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Fellowship established with a Lutheran church body in Kenya

On Sept. 14–15, 2018, our sister synod the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Zambia Synod (LCCA-ZS) met in convention for the 31st time in its history. The LCCA-ZS, along with the Lutheran Church of Central Africa–Malawi Synod, was established as a mission by WELS and has since become a fully independent church body in fellowship with WELS.

Delegates at that convention approved the recommendation of the LCCA-ZS Synodical Council to declare full fellowship with a Lutheran church body located in Kenya.

Swedish missionaries brought Lutheranism to Kenya in 1948, and in 1963 the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Kenya (ELCK) became an independent church body. Over time, however, the ELCK began to tolerate false teachings in its fellowship, and a group of Kenyan pastors broke away and began searching for a confessional Lutheran church body. In 2015, Rev. Mark Onunda of the Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ (LCMC)–Kenya met with the Doctrinal Committee of the LCCA-ZS and with WELS representatives in Zambia and presented a formal request for fellowship.

Over the past three years, the LCCA-ZS Doctrinal Committee carefully examined the constitution of the LCMC–Kenya and identified key doctrinal areas to be discussed with their leaders. Representatives of the LCCA-ZS, WELS Pastoral Studies Institute, and WELS missionaries from the One Africa Team made multiple trips to Kenya to study issues like the roles of men and women, Pentecostalism, and the doctrine of the Call. After all these issues were thoroughly discussed, the Doctrinal Committee of the LCCA-ZS gave a recommendation for a full declaration of fellowship with the LCMC-Kenya, which was endorsed by the LCCA-ZS Synodical Council in July. Last month, delegates to the LCCA-ZS synod convention ratified this recommendation.

The next step will be a formal recommendation by the LCCA-ZS to accept the LCMC-Kenya into the fellowship of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference, of which WELS is a member. WELS anticipates declaring formal fellowship with the LCMC-Kenya at its 2019 convention.

Read more about the LCCA-ZS synod convention. Learn more about WELS mission work in Africa at wels.net/missions.

 

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Treptow accepts call to be seminary president

On Monday, Oct. 1, Prof. Earle Treptow accepted the call to succeed Prof. Paul Wendland as president of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., at the end of the 2018–19 school year. Treptow, the seminary’s vice president, joined the faculty in 2016. He teaches systematic theology and Old Testament.

“Prof. Earle Treptow is an experienced leader, an excellent scholar, and a gospel-hearted and humble man. He will make an outstanding president,” says Wendland.

Wendland, who joined the faculty in 2001 and has been serving as president since 2004,  will remain at the seminary and transition to a teaching-only role.

“I’m grateful for this transition time,” notes Treptow. “I will have time to observe a bit more carefully what the president is asked to do and to talk with him about why we do what we do. I have been trying to remind myself, though, that I have not been asked to replace Paul Wendland but to take over the duties he has carried out. There is only one Paul Wendland. The combination of his love for the gospel, his intellect, his passion, and his zeal for missions have been a great blessing for the seminary and our synod.”

Rev. Jonathan Scharf, chairman of the Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Governing Board, agrees. “We thank President Wendland for his work leading the seminary,” says Scharf. “He has kept the seminary focused on its mission of preparing workers to serve God’s kingdom in the pastoral ministry. We’re also thankful to the Lord of the church that he’s given the seminary a man such as Prof. Treptow, whose many gifts will be a blessing to our church body as he serves as seminary president.”

For more information on Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, visit wls.wels.net.

 

 

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One hundred twenty-five years of God’s grace

This year marks the 125th anniversary of WELS World Missions work on the Apache reservation in Arizona.

A special anniversary celebration will be held Oct. 26–28 on the Apache reservation to celebrate its history and God’s blessings over the years.

On Oct. 26, visitors can take self-guided tours of the reservation. A celebration event has been planned for Saturday, Oct. 27, at Peridot Lutheran Church and School, Peridot, Ariz. Special activities include two historical presentations by Rev. Dr. William Kessel and Rev. Eric Hartzell, crafts, music, food, and a celebration worship service. Finally, WELS congregations throughout the reservation are holding special Rally Day worship services on Sunday, Oct. 28.

“The Spirit-led drive of these pioneer missionaries amazes us today. In the face of humanly insurmountable barriers, they carried on. Language, travel, living conditions, and a culture rooted in animism couldn’t stop God’s plan. Even as those missionaries trusted in the power of the gospel, I wonder if our first Christian witnesses could have dreamed what the Lord would do with the work they started,” says Rev. Larry Schlomer, administrator of WELS World Missions. “One hundred twenty-five years later we are amazed at what the Lord has done and give God the glory. May God continue to give WELS that same boldness as we continue to carry his Word to the world.”

The Native American mission is also looking forward with boldness to how it can share the gospel message in the future.

“Our past is amazing,” says Rev. Dan Rautenberg, the Native American mission field coordinator. “We honor that, but at the same time we’re not just looking back at the amazing things people did long ago. Our people have the same potential now, and we have new opportunities.”

The mission has its eyes on the 500-plus other reservations throughout the United States. Rautenberg says 95 percent of the Native Americans on these reservations aren’t Christian.

While the mission has some contacts on other reservations, it is hoping to broaden its reach through its website, nativechristians.org. Developed as part of the anniversary celebration, the website is working to establish an identity that’s wider than just the two current reservations. The site currently shares 125th anniversary plans and historical articles about the field, but future plans call for making the site an evangelism tool that Native Christians can use to share the gospel with their friends, family, and acquaintances—no matter where they’re located.

Learn more about the Native American mission as well as find anniversary resources and a full schedule of anniversary activities at nativechristians.org. Follow the WELS Missions Facebook page for live updates and posts during the celebration Oct. 26-28.

 

 

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New edition of catechism impacts homes, churches, and schools

In June 2017, Northwestern Publishing House (NPH) released a new edition of Luther’s Small Catechism. Since then, this version has had an impact in thousands of homes, churches, and schools.

First published in 1529, Luther’s Small Catechism has served as a powerful resource for Lutheran students and families. Its lessons consist of a series of questions and answers based on the Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, Baptism, the Keys and Confession, and the Lord’s Supper.

Developed in collaboration with Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, NPH’s 2017 version of Luther’s Small Catechism retains the signature question-and-answer style and lesson topics. New additions include enhanced diagrams of important concepts, information on historical Bible accounts, suggestions for applying Lutheran beliefs practically, and more.

In a February issue of Together, WELS President Mark Schroeder commented on the 2017 catechism’s potential for lifelong devotional use in the home.

“Luther often encouraged faithful Christians to study and review the catechism as a part of their daily devotional lives,” he said. “With that in mind, the newly revised WELS catechism is formatted in such a way to encourage our members to use the catechism on a daily basis, long after they have been confirmed.”

Congregation members at Grace, Milwaukee, Wis., share their thoughts on their weekly household use of the new catechism in the church’s blog series called “As for Me and My House.”

“As someone who grew up on the catechism in school, I have greatly appreciated the refreshed format of the new catechism,” Grace’s church councilman Jared Greanya said. “After reading a chapter together, my wife and I pick out the specific content that is easily understood by our children and then study that content with them the following evening.”

New teaching resources from NPH support the 2017 catechism. Growing in the Word is a new curriculum designed to teach Bible history to catechism students who may be unfamiliar with the historical accounts recorded in God’s Word.

“Some kids down here don’t know Bible history the same way many kids in Lutheran elementary schools do up north,” says Rev. John Boggs, pastor at Divine Savior, West Palm Beach, Fla. “I’ve been searching for a good way to incorporate that into my catechism teaching, and this seems like an awesome opportunity for us.”

Growing in Grace is another new curriculum from NPH. Focusing on the six chief parts of Luther’s Small Catechism, it serves as a complement to Growing in the Word.

To learn more about the 2017 edition of Luther’s Small Catechism and its related teaching resources from NPH, visit www.nph.net/catechism.

 

 

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Special committee reports progress

Last spring the Conference of Presidents appointed a study committee to review our WELS doctrinal statement on man and woman roles. The committee has been asked to consider ways in which we might clarify how we express the biblical principle in a way that helps us avoid misunderstandings and caricatures as we confess it in a new generation.

Chaired by Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary Professor Rich Gurgel, the committee has begun its work in earnest. Over two-and-a-half days in late August, the committee spent time in the study of the Scriptures, reflecting on what God teaches about man and woman in his world. From there the committee worked through the doctrinal statement and essays that addressed portions of the statement. One of the more significant items on the agenda was a discussion of the responses to a survey sent out in early July. The survey, to which more than 600 teachers, pastors, and laypeople responded, asked respondents to identify places where the doctrinal statement seems a bit unclear and where God’s unique callings for men and women could be expressed more clearly. The feedback proved to be invaluable, as it generated significant discussion about ways in which to express the truth of the interdependent partnership God designed for men and women in his world.

Based on their study of God’s Word and the suggestions offered regarding sections of the doctrinal statement that could be stated more clearly, the committee is currently working on some possible ways to make the statement even better. The committee hopes to present initial suggestions to the Conference of Presidents by December. The long-term plan is to prepare Bible study materials that will be helpful to called workers and congregations for digging into God’s Word on this important teaching.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

 

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Christian Aid and Relief Florence update

WELS Christian Aid and Relief has been monitoring damage to WELS churches, members, and communities in the Southeastern United States following Hurricane Florence. So far, only Ascension in Jacksonville, N.C., has reported significant damage. The congregation’s rented worship facility lost shingles in the wind, allowing torrents of rain to destroy the ceiling and fill the worship space. Christian Aid and Relief is still awaiting reports regarding how other area WELS members and communities fared.

Rev. Bob Hein, chairman of Christian Aid and Relief, reported that Christian Aid and Relief approved a $10,000 gift to Direct Relief, a secular relief organization that is providing immediate relief to people affected by Hurricane Florence. Hein reports, “We are also assessing ways to personalize our relief efforts by working through our churches in the affected areas.”

To learn more about or support WELS Christian Aid and Relief, visit wels.net/relief.

 

 

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Great news for Home Missions

The WELS Board for Home Missions is celebrating a number of milestones this September. During its fall meeting, the board approved funding for three new missions starts.

“The significance of Home Missions authorizing three new missions is that we now have three more dedicated locations where first and foremost the gospel of Jesus Christ will be proclaimed,” says Rev. Keith Free, administrator of the Board for Home Missions. “The mission pastor and mission members will have as their first objective to reach more people with the message that makes all the difference now and in eternity—Christ crucified for the sins of all.”

New congregations are being supported in:

  • Bluffton, S.C., which has developed through the efforts of Risen Savior, Pooler, Ga. The new mission in Bluffton is likely to be part of a multi-site ministry effort with Risen Savior. This effort is spearheaded by Eric Janke, a 2018 graduate of Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., who deferred an assignment due to his wife’s three-year residency to become a doctor. Janke has worked with Risen Savior’s pastor and members to develop a strong ministry plan for this new mission site.
  • Mansfield, Ohio, where a Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod (LCMS) congregation is closing and contacted WELS to see if our synod might be interested in opening a mission in this area. The new mission will be buying the land and building of the former LCMS church. Some of the church’s members are planning to join the new WELS mission and are working with WELS members in the area to launch this new WELS congregation.
  • Richland Center, Wis., which is part of a multi-site effort being supported by St. John, Hillpoint, and Trinity, Lime Ridge, both in Wisconsin. St. John and Trinity currently share one pastor, who has been exploring the viability of a mission in Richland Center. The area seems well suited for a WELS mission start, and members of St. John and Trinity are excited to support this effort.

These new starts are being supported by a $1 million special grant from the WELS Church Extension Fund, Inc. (CEF). CEF helps provide financing so mission congregations and established congregations with mission-focused initiatives can purchase land and either build or renovate a worship facility. CEF funds its loan program through individual WELS members’ and congregations’ investments in CEF financial products. CEF’s grant program is funded primarily through operating earnings of the CEF portfolio of loans and investments.

“CEF’s financials are strong,” says Mr. Scott Page, executive director of CEF, “allowing the board to approve this special grant while continuing to provide a sound investment vehicle for WELS members and congregations.”

As Free notes, “Over and above its loan and grant program, since August 2015 CEF has given more than $4.3 million to Home Missions’ operations budget. This has helped fund many of our new mission congregations and helped enhance outreach throughout the United States, Canada, and the English-speaking Caribbean.”

Free is also excited to announce that many mission congregations launched their first public worship services in September, a milestone for these young churches. Launch services were held by Living Hope, Chattanooga, Tenn.; Intown Lutheran, Atlanta, Ga.; Good News, Lehi, Utah; Huntersville Lutheran, Huntersville, N.C.; and Grace in the Ward, Milwaukee, Wis.

Rev. Doug Van Sice, pastor at Huntersville, says, “As I sat in my office the day before the launch, I prayed that God would bless our launch regardless of who or how many showed up. At the end of the day, numbers are not what is most important. What is most important is that the changeless message of the gospel is preached in its truth and purity and that God’s people are edified by that very truth. Not only did God bless our worship with his Word, but he blessed it with people. He brought 62 people through Huntersville Lutheran’s doors. It was incredible! More than I could have asked for or imagined.”

For more information on WELS Home or World Missions, visit wels.net/missions. For more information on WELS Church Extension Fund, visit wels.net/cef.

 

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Seminary holds annual symposium

Almost 400 people attended Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s annual fall symposium from Sept 17-18 in Mequon, Wis. Pastors from across North America heard three papers presented on “The Pastor as Shepherd-Leader.” By virtue of his divine call, a pastor is both a loving shepherd and servant leader, yet the challenge can be knowing how and where to lead. Three speakers guided pastors and pastoral students through the thorny issues that surround pastoral leadership and offered clear and wise counsel to those who lead the flock of God.

Professor David Scharf, class of 2005, began the symposium with the paper, “St. Paul and Martin Luther: Paradigms of Shepherd-Leaders.” Scharf, a professor at Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn., outlined a paradigm for shepherd leadership using “I am Jesus’ Little Lamb.” He shared, “A shepherd-leader first recognizes that he is a sheep. Humility is in order. He is joyfully optimistic. He guides by training and encouraging others for ministry as well as by instructing his people in a gentle way. He loves God and loves people by supplying what people need and is consistent. Finally, a shepherd-leader knows his sheep and calls them by name.”

The second paper, presented by 1999 graduate Rev. Jonathan Schroeder, discussed “Shepherd-Leaders Under the Cross: Facing the Challenges.” Schroeder, pastor at Faith, Sharpsburg, Ga., addressed the hard idea that suffering and bearing the cross is part of life as a Christian. “Understanding what God is really like is imperative for shepherd-leaders who guide God’s people as they face challenges together. To show us what he is really like, God leads his shepherd and his flock to the unlikeliest of places: the cross,” he shared. “God puts his pastors and congregations in situations that test their faith, test their joy in ministry, test their trust in him. But he does those things to strengthen us, to mold us into the servants that he wants. That is what makes our congregational crosses so dear. When the potter puts his hands on you, run to his Word.”

For the final paper, Rev. Jonathan Hein, class of 1997, addressed the future. Hein, coordinator for WELS Congregational Services, presented “The Shepherd-Leader at Work: Moving Forward.” He reminded those in attendance, “God has called you a shepherd leader. To say, ‘I’m not a leader’ is more than self-pity. It is a denial of reality. God speaks; reality results. God has spoken; thus, you are a leader.” He encouraged the pastors to examine their leadership and ministries. “It seems to me that at times there is an unwillingness to examine how we are proclaiming the Word; to ask, ‘Are we proclaiming the Word in ways that makes sense, given our context?’ Sometimes, it seems we are hesitant to simply ask, ‘Is this the best we can do?’” He also reminded them of the freedom to lead with the gifts God has given them, “The LORD did not give Adam instructions on how to do everything. Instead, he made Adam in his likeness—possessing reason undergirded with purity. Likewise, as we provide leadership in his church, he simply does not provide a lot of detailed direction. We might like him to. He chooses not to, so that we might demonstrate our love for him through careful reasoning.”

The archive of the symposium is available at livestream.com/WLSLive.

 

 

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Outreach film bulk order deadline extended

Due to popular demand, the deadline for bulk rate orders of To the Ends of the Earth, the outreach film that tells the story of the apostle Paul and his work in Philippi, has been extended.

Now congregations and groups have until Sept. 28 to order quantities of 100 DVDs at a low bulk rate of $200 per box, plus shipping. Bulk orders that have been placed on or before Sept. 7 are shipping now. Orders placed by Sept. 28 will ship the first week of October.

More than 600 congregations have already ordered over 50,000 copies of the movie at this bulk rate.

“We are going to hand out DVDs at events in our area such as street festivals, etc.,” says Rev. Joel Petermann, pastor at Zion, Torrance, Calif. “It is our hope and prayer that those who watch this video will hear its gospel message and want to know more about Jesus so we can follow up with Bible class invitations and worship invitations.”

Petermann also notes that the outreach emphasis in the film will serve as a precursor to the upcoming C18 effort, a synodwide outreach campaign to reach one million people with the gospel message during the Christmas season. Film resources, including worship materials; adult, small group, teen, and children Bible studies; an Advent by Candlelight program; and personal reflections, discuss how to witness and share your faith.

“We hope the film reaffirms a mission mindset among our members,” says Rev. Michael Vogel, pastor at St. Paul, Calgary, Alberta, Canada. “We will be doing a six-week sermon series and Bible study on the film in October and November. We will use the DVDs as part of our welcome package for visitors. We also will encourage our members to take one and share it with family and friends.”

Worship materials also can be used as an option for celebrating the synodwide Mission and Ministry Sunday planned for Oct. 21. All congregations received a free DVD of the film for this purpose.

To the Ends of the Earth is the final installment in a series of four outreach movies that are a collaboration between WELS Commission on Evangelism, WELS Commission on Discipleship, Northwestern Publishing House, WELS Multi-Language Publications, and Boettcher+Trinklein Television, Inc. Learn more, bulk order copies, and watch a film preview at wels.net/totheendsoftheearth.

 

 

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WELS Mission and Ministry Sunday approaching

Annual mission celebrations and festivals have been a part of our synod for nearly its entire history. While our mission to work together to proclaim the gospel to the world is always front and center of what we do as Christians, as congregations, and as a synod, setting aside a special day to focus on mission work is a great way to renew our focus on this important work.

The Conference of Presidents has designated Oct. 21 as the date for a synodwide Mission and Ministry Sunday in 2018. Congregations are encouraged to plan a special day in which worship will focus on the mission work that we do together as a synod. This year congregations have the opportunity to highlight the newest evangelism movie. To the Ends of the Earth is the fourth in a series of films that have illustrated how the message of Christ’s saving work was proclaimed by his first followers and now continues to be proclaimed by believers in keeping with Jesus’ command to take the gospel “to the ends of the earth.”

Materials and worship resources, including a sermon study and a newly commissioned mission hymn, can be can be found online.

A children’s song is also available for purchase from Northwestern Publishing House.

It’s our prayer that congregations will also gather a special mission offering on that day (or on another day it chooses) to support the synod’s ongoing and future mission efforts.

Serving with you in Christ,
WELS President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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Disasters provide opportunity to show Christian love

Storm damage in Wisconsin has given WELS members the opportunity to show Christ’s love in their communities.

On Aug. 20-21, more than 11 inches of rain fell in a 24-hour time period in Dane County. In some areas, residents were evacuated to higher ground. Homes and vehicles were flooded.

St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., worked with WELS Christian Aid and Relief to provide help to their neighbors. On Aug. 25, more than 200 volunteers coordinated by St. Andrew helped their community members clean up following the storm.

“As Christians, all our earthly possessions may be swept away in 35 minutes or less,” says Elizabeth Zambo of Christian Aid and Relief, “but our faith, that is anchored to the Rock, will remain secure. These people that have experienced flooding are now being emotionally, physically, and spiritually challenged. I am always amazed when I see the people soon after the disaster strikes and then witness the changes that occur in their faith and attitude over the days, weeks, and months after the disaster. Not only do the people suffering from the flooding grow in their faith, but those who are assisting those in need realize they too are growing in their faith.”

In a report to his members following the clean-up effort, Rev. Kelly Huet, a pastor at St. Andrew, noted, “Lives and communities were impacted today because of your love for Jesus.” St. Andrew is continuing to offer help as homes are now being rebuilt.

On Aug. 28, 17 tornadoes touched down in Wisconsin, including one F2 tornado outside of Brownsville in Dodge County. The church property and parsonage of St. Paul, Brownsville, sustained damage from the high winds and downed trees, but no one was injured.

On Sept. 1, the congregation coordinated an effort with Christian Aid and Relief to offer aid to its neighbors who suffered damage from the storm and to help clear its property. The effort brought together 85 WELS members, including many from surrounding areas. Community members also joined in, as well as a group from Stillwater, Minn., who brought one of Christian Aid and Relief’s trailers. These trailers are stocked with items such as chainsaws, generators, rakes, brooms, ropes, buckets, helmets, and gloves.

The Brownsville community was grateful for the volunteers’ help. Many were overwhelmed by the number of trees that needed to be cleared from their property.

To learn more about WELS Christian Aid and Relief and to support their work, visit wels.net/relief. To see more photos and videos from these relief efforts, visit facebook.com/WELSChristianAidAndRelief.

 

WELS CAR - Brownsville, Wis.

 

 

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Reaching one million souls with the gospel

According to Rev. Jonathan Hein, coordinator of WELS Congregational Services, Christmas Eve is the #1 worship service that unchurched and dechurched people are willing to attend. A new synodwide outreach campaign called C18 is now available from WELS Congregational Services to help congregations and individuals with this huge outreach opportunity.

The campaign’s theme, “A Light in the darkness,” is based on Isaiah 9:2: “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.” The overarching goal of the program? To reach one million people with the gospel message during the Christmas season.

In order to reach one million people, Hein says congregations and their members need to work together synodwide. “Our job is to simply share the gospel as zealously as we can. We leave the results up to the Holy Spirit,” he says. “However, if together we would achieve the goal of reaching one million souls, and if the Holy Spirit would bless that effort at a similar rate he has for past programs, it would mean about 1,500 people and their families would join a WELS congregation as a result of the C18 program.”

Every commission from Congregational Services is providing royalty-free resources to help congregations and members with this effort:

  • The Commission on Evangelism is developing promotional materials such as postcards, banners, and Facebook posts. Congregations can order customizable postcards with the C18 theme from Echt Printing. WELS Congregational Services is offering an outreach grant of up to $150 off the postcard order to the first 200 congregations that participate. The deadline to order is Oct. 21.

The Commission on Evangelism is also providing a Bible study related to the new outreach movie To the Ends of the Earth. The study, which will discuss how to witness and share your faith, can help prepare members to invite their unchurched friends, relatives, acquaintances, and neighbors to Christmas Eve services.

  • The Commission on Worship is providing worship resources, including worship plans, several liturgy options, sermon helps, service folders, and newly commissioned music. The commission is not just providing materials for Christmas Eve; it also has produced a series for Advent called He Comes, Bearing Gifts.
  • The Commission on Discipleship is producing family Advent devotions, with a special emphasis on training and encouraging families to reach out to the unchurched during the holiday season.
  • The Commission on Lutheran Schools is providing WELS schools with evangelism training materials for children and teens.
  • The Commission on Special Ministries is developing supplementary materials for the Christmas for Kids program developed by Northwestern Publishing House to allow congregations to offer a service for children with special needs.
  • The Commission on Congregational Counseling is providing materials to help congregations coordinate this outreach effort as well as helps for following up on contacts after the holiday season.

Almost all of the materials will be offered as free downloads from the WELS Congregational Services website, welscongregationalservices.net/c18. Some materials are available now; others will be provided in the coming weeks. Pastors and interested laypeople should sign up now to receive updates, which will include notices when new materials are posted online as well as planning tips and timelines to carry out the program successfully.

 

 

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WELS Prison Ministry turns 25

This year, WELS Prison Ministry celebrates its 25th anniversary. This ministry provides Christian materials and education to jail and prison inmates. Since its start, WELS Prison Ministry has served more than 80,000 people in 1,300 different facilities by mail and in person.

Helmed by the volunteer efforts of the Organization of WELS Lutheran Seniors (OWLS) and WELS Special Ministries, this area of institutional ministry formally began in 1993. Its work originally targeted incarcerated WELS members, but it began to reach non-WELS inmates over time as well. By 1999, the program had expanded so rapidly that a full-time administrator was called. The ministry is currently headquartered in New Ulm, Minn., and much of its work is still completed by volunteers.

Mr. David Hochmuth, Prison Ministry administrator

In August 2018, WELS welcomed the newest Prison Ministry administrator, Mr. David Hochmuth. A former civil engineer, Hochmuth served as a staff minister of spiritual growth at St. Andrew, Middleton, Wis., for 11 years before accepting the call.

“It is such a fruitful field for evangelism,” Hochmuth says. “Many people in prison understand that they face problems and that they are in need of help. The Spirit moves them to be honest about their situation. It is a great avenue for learning about the truth of Jesus.”

Hochmuth quotes Matthew 25:36 when explaining his motivation and interest in leading this ministry: “I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.”

Prison Ministry has evolved significantly over the past 25 years.

“It has developed into more than sending Bible study booklets to inmates,” explains Mr. Leon Brands, former WELS Prison Ministry Committee chairman. “There’s been increased interest and concentrated efforts to involve more WELS members in face-to-face ministry.”

Hochmuth adds that technological improvements have also allowed ministries to share God’s Word via digital Bible studies and other courses.

Brands is optimistic about the future of Prison Ministry. “The prayer of the Prison Ministry Committee is that the new administrator, Dave Hochmuth—with the help of others—is able to expand and develop better training for individuals who want to go into facilities, and also develop some aftercare and mentoring programs for both released inmates and their families.”

In the future, Hochmuth says he also hopes to provide the staff of jails and prisons with the spiritual support they need, among other new services. Yet he recognizes that Prison Ministry faces a daunting task and must establish clear priorities in order to serve effectively and efficiently.

“There are over two million people behind bars in our country. As a relatively small church body, our resources may seem inadequate,” says Hochmuth. “But two fish and five loaves seemed inadequate for the task too.”

To learn more about WELS Prison Ministry, contact David Hochmuth at dave.hochmuth@wels.netSubscribe to the Special Ministries e-mail newsletter His Hands for the latest updates about Prison Ministry and other special ministries.

 

 

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WELS ministerial education schools begin another year

The four WELS ministerial education schools opened their years with blessings and good news.

While class sizes remain in the 20s and 30s for the next two years at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., projections based upon planned graduates from Martin Luther College indicate an upward trend toward the mid-30s in the following years. The Lord is answering the need for more workers in his harvest field.

Preliminary undergraduate opening enrollment at Martin Luther College (MLC), New Ulm, Minn., as of mid-August, is 768 compared to 756 last year. (Official enrollment is finalized at the end of August.) About 200 of the undergraduates are preseminary students, 70 of which are freshmen. Total enrollment in the various educational tracks is 547. Eleven students are enrolled in the staff ministry program.

Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., opened the school year with a total enrollment of 420, up from 416 last year. Enrollment has been steady over the last five years, significantly larger than the low of 333 ten years ago. Last year LPS sent the largest number of its graduates to MLC to train for the pastoral ministry (38) in its 153-year history. Seventy percent of the class of 2018 has enrolled at Martin Luther College.

Michigan Lutheran Seminary (MLS), Saginaw, Mich., begins the school year under the leadership of its new president, Rev. Mark Luetzow. Opening enrollment is 192, slightly lower than last year’s 195. MLS has 14 international students from five countries (Canada, South Korea, China, Germany, and Mexico). Thirty-three percent of the MLS faculty (including dormitory staff) is new since the end of last school year.

We thank God for these schools and for their students who are preparing to serve the Lord in the public ministry.

Serving in Christ,
President Mark Schroeder

 

 

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New WELS high school opens

On Aug. 8, a new WELS high school began its first school year. Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School (KPLHS) is serving young men from Milwaukee County, most of whom qualify for the Milwaukee Parental Choice Program, a government school voucher system.

“There is a huge mission field right here in Milwaukee,” says Mr. Kevin Festerling, the school’s founder and principal. “Hundreds of students graduating from WELS grade schools in the area could not pursue Christian secondary education due to the scarcity of voucher seats available in the existing area Lutheran high schools. I felt like we as a church were turning our back on the Great Commission by turning students away who wanted a Christian education.”

Festerling recognized that building a Lutheran high school to serve this new group of students’ needs wouldn’t be easy. The school has deliberately focused on providing young men with a kingdom-first mindset. The statistics are grim for boys who are raised in urban areas in the United States, and Milwaukee’s statistics are even worse than most. According to Festerling, many young men in today’s families are navigating the most critical years of their lives without active fathers. To help reverse that trend and build Christian leaders, Kingdom Prep’s vision is for “young men to develop their God-given gifts to lead in the home, serve in the church, engage in meaningful work, and transform community.”

Daily small-group Bible studies focus on what it means for a man to seek God’s heart with his whole life. Assigned projects help the young men solve real community problems with godly solutions. School decisions are placed in the hands of student leaders. Each facet of the school is focused on helping it accomplish its mission of “building a brotherhood in Christ for lives of purpose.”

Rev. Dr. Paul Steinberg, executive director of Chaplains in Schools and one of Kingdom Prep’s spiritual advisors, is helping the school’s leadership maintain its focus on its mission to disciple the next generation of Christian male leaders. He says, “My work will be to spiritually assess each of the freshmen and connect them with a strong Christian mentor. Kingdom Prep students and their mentors will aim to meet weekly for spiritual check-ins, prayer, and Bible study.”

In 2018-19, Kingdom Prep is serving 60 freshmen boys. Each school year, a grade will be added, along with space for 60 more boys. Each Kingdom Prep student is invited to commit to the school’s mission, carrying the KPLHS vision through brotherhood in Christ and hard work.

“We are there to walk alongside the brothers as they grow,” says Festerling, “celebrating the way each takes responsibility for his own growth.”

Mr. Jim Rademan, director of the Commission on Lutheran Schools, notes, “The Christian love and commitment of the called teachers and staff, led by founding principal Kevin Festerling, is clear. The teachers are sharing with the students the power of the Holy Spirit and the opportunity they have to learn the skills to be leaders in their homes and community.”

For more information on Kingdom Prep Lutheran High School, visit kplhs.org. The October issue of Forward in Christ magazine will also share comments from students in Kingdom Prep’s first freshman class.

 

 

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