Evangelism courses at MLC

This fall, the WELS Commission on Evangelism is beginning a new certification program on evangelism, using courses offered through Martin Luther College’s online continuing education program. Building on the popular Schools of Outreach, these courses are designed to help laypeople and called workers lead their congregations with planning and implementing efforts to reach more people with the gospel.

“I really want to help, encourage, pray for, and learn alongside of believers,” says Rev. Donn Dobberstein, chairman of the Commission on Evangelism. “Some may be looking to personally grow in evangelism on behalf of their congregation. Others may be facing challenges or feeling a little overwhelmed or discouraged in their ministry setting.”

Each course provides the biblical foundation for evangelism and ministry resources needed for training and encouraging leaders.

“As WELS members we know sharing Jesus is important; we want to train the leaders in our congregations to be better at it,” says Rev. Michael Hintz, director of the Commission on Evangelism.

The first class, The Mission of the Church, taught by Rev. Donn Dobberstein, begins Sep. 7. The second class, Practical Evangelism for Congregations, taught by Rev. Michael Hintz, will begin Nov. 10. A third course on Friendship Evangelism will be offered early in 2015 and will be taught by Rev. John Huebner.

“These courses will place them in a learning environment providing mutual support, assistance, and friendship – God-willing, long after the short courses are over,” says Dobberstein.

To learn more and register for the classes: http://connect.wels.net/evangelism.

Luther Prep to hold open house

For 150 years, Luther Preparatory School (LPS), Watertown, Wis., has been “Preparing Lives for Service” to God and to his mission for the church. On Sunday, Oct. 5, at 2 p.m. (central) the school will be hosting an open house to share the school’s important role in WELS ministry with WELS members and the surrounding community.

The open house will include campus tours, a brief history of the campus, student choirs, a meet and greet with LPS faculty, and light refreshments.

LPS President Rev. Matt Crass, says, “We want our visitors to take away an appreciation for the blessing this campus has been to our church body for the past 150 years. We also want them to understand that the purpose remains the same today as it was 150 years ago.”

Crass continues, “LPS belongs to the entire WELS church body. The majority of our pastors and high percentage of our teachers were influenced through their time as a student on the synod’s Watertown campus.”

Mark your calendar to visit the synod’s historic campus. Learn more about LPS and its plans to celebrate its 150th anniversary at www.lps.wels.net.

Summer assistants serve churches

This summer, ten Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., students served in congregations in Alaska, New Mexico, Texas, Indiana, Michigan, California, Wisconsin, and Kentucky. These summer assistants served with Spanish outreach, helped with sports camps, preached, led Bible studies, helped with teens, assisted in worship, made outreach calls, taught vacation Bible school and English as a Second Language classes, and participated in summer Bible camp.

John Paustian, who served at Peace, Eagle River, Alaska, is thankful for the opportunity. “Pastor [Brian] Hackmann got me involved very quickly with the church,” he says. “The experience you gain is a great step in the right direction to further strengthening yourself as a pastor.”

His hands-on experience was all the practical aspects of preparing for vacation Bible school: making sign-up forms, advertising at local businesses, helping build a cardboard boat float for two parades, and making door-to-door visits to get the word out. All the work paid off. “The VBS was a huge success and the church had over 150 children register,” Paustian says. “There were many families who were unchurched and we used VBS to visit every child’s home with a CD/DVD of the songs they had sung.”

Summer assistants don’t simply help a church with projects, they also receive on-the-job training. Paustian preached four new sermons, assisted with liturgy, and led Bible class. “Pastor Hackmann worked with me throughout all these tasks and helped me to continue to grow,” he says.

For all the practical ways he participated in the life of the church—and the bonus of a summer in Alaska—”ultimately, the best part was getting to know people and being a part of their lives, sharing stories, struggles, and even great successes. And that is what ministry is about—people,” he explains. “Getting to know them enhances how you can serve them in conversation, in your worship together, and in their life as a whole.”

Learn more about Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary at www.wls.wels.net.

Initial planning for the ministry financial plan

During the month of August, all areas of the synod’s ministry began initial work on the synod’s Ministry Financial Plan (budget) for the next 2015-2017 biennium.

The first step in the process was the adoption of a “support forecast.” This is an estimation, based on future projections and historical patterns, of the financial support from all sources likely to be available in the next two years. This forecast will continue to be modified as circumstances change in the next six to eight months.

The current forecast is a conservative one. It asks areas of ministry to submit plans that assume no increase in financial support over the current year. Since our prayer is that available financial support will increase, areas of ministry have also been asked to outline their plans if God blesses us with such increases.

Once the various areas of ministry and other departments submit their initial proposals, it is the responsibility of the synod president to craft a comprehensive Ministry Financial Plan for the entire work of the synod. An initial draft of this comprehensive plan is presented to the President’s Advisory Council in late September for reaction and suggested modifications. The plan, with any changes made, is then submitted to the Synodical Council (SC) for its initial consideration in November. In February, after the 2015 Congregation Mission Offering subscriptions are received and other financial information becomes available, the SC will adopt a final version of the plan and bring its recommendation to the synod convention next July. Along with the plan that it presents to the convention, the SC will also present a list of “unfunded priorities,” that is, programs and ministries that will be carried out if additional funding becomes available.

Even though this process involves a lot of discussion about dollars, it’s really not about money; it’s about ministry and how we work together to carry out the mission that God graciously given to us. The hours of planning for all involved reflects our desire to be faithful stewards of the financial resources God provides, to seize the opportunities that God is placing before us, and to provide the people of our synod with the information necessary to make wise and God-pleasing decisions about the work that we do together.

Serving in Christ,

President Mark Schroeder

Professors from Lutheran colleges meet

More than 150 professors from WELS higher education institutions and those in our fellowship attended the Lutheran College Conference Aug. 10-12 at Wisconsin Lutheran College, Milwaukee, Wis., under the theme “Teaching through a Lutheran Lens.” These WELS and Evangelical Lutheran Synod (ELS) professors from Wisconsin Lutheran College, Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minn.; Bethany Lutheran College, Mankato, Minn.; Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary, Mankato; and Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wis., encouraged each other and shared ideas and approaches for teaching with an eye always on faith.

“Teaching through a Lutheran lens is a conversation that has been occurring on our campus for many years now,” says Professor Rhoda Wolle, chairperson of the faculty development committee at Wisconsin Lutheran College. “It’s remaining mindful of why we do what we do and how we do it to the best of our ability and to the glory of our Savior.”

Rev. Mark Zarling, president of Martin Luther College, says this conference was a great opportunity for attendees to gather around Word and sacrament for the Spirit’s strength. “All professors in these colleges seek to be instruments of the Spirit to nurture faith and instill a biblical and Christocentric worldview in our students,” he says. “How vital this is as we live in a society that is flooded with false world views. . . . Christians teaching in higher education are strengthened to be clear witnesses not only to their students, but also to an academic world that no longer espouses propositional truth.”

Through general presentations as well as set times for specific academic departments to meet, the conference gave participants opportunities to see how their colleagues incorporate confessional Lutheranism in their teaching—no matter what the topic.

“One of my favorite proverbs is ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ I think that’s why I’m here,” says Professor Chad Heins, biology, Bethany Lutheran College. “Here there’s multiple sections with different professors teaching different things. They all approach things differently and yet have that common spiritual theme embedded in everything.”

This is the fifth conference put together by this group, the first being held in 2000 at Bethany Lutheran College. Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary and Bethany Lutheran Theological Seminary participated in the conference for the first time this year. “It’s new territory for me,” says Rev. Forrest Bivens, professor at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary. “But the concept is just so excellent—to have Lutheran educators who are giving thanks to God for being Lutherans . . . and to see them devoting themselves to the priority of remaining Lutheran as well as growing professionally all wrapped in one beautiful package.”

The next conference is scheduled to be held at Martin Luther College in 2017.

Connecting kids for 20 years

Twenty years ago, the first Kids ConnectionVHS tapes were being sent to WELS schools across the country. Now, marking its twentieth anniversary, the children of that first Kids Connection audience are viewing the DVDs every month at WELS schools. While technology, styles, and hosts have changed over the years, the message has remained the same: “Stay connected to Jesus.”

That message, says Mr. Steve Boettcher, who has been producing the videos for all 20 years, is “as true this season as it was 20 years ago. It’s something we really truly believe in.”

Kids Connection, a video implemented by the WELS Commission on Youth and Family Ministry, was born out of a desire from teachers and pastors who wanted a WELS Connection-style video with a message targeted to kids. Nine episodes are made each year, one for each month of the school year.

Boettcher says, “We want to connect Christian kids to other Christian kids, showing there are other schools like theirs and other Christians like them across the nation in WELS.” The goal, he explains, is to highlight young Christians as much as possible in the videos, including the high school-aged hosts of each episode.

Helping WELS kids stay connected for the past 20 years is Rev. Tony Schultz, pastor at St. Luke’s, Watertown, Wis. He has offered up a reflection on God’s Word in every episode for all 20 seasons. Schultz says, “Month after month to be able to tell tens of thousands of kids that Jesus loves them, that’s a privilege to touch more lives than you ever could in one building.”

The message Schultz hopes viewers take away resonates with kids and adults alike: “Every hour of every day, look for Jesus. Look for his grace, his love, and his wisdom and power in everything around you. Always be looking for Jesus. We always say ‘stay connected to Jesus,’ but the fact is Jesus is always connected to us. He’s always watching you; he’s always with you; he always loves you.”

Nearly 300 WELS schools and churches already subscribe to Kids Connection. To help the youth at your school or congregation stay connected to Jesus, fill out the subscription form on Connect.

Many countries, one faith in Peru

“We all speak the same language.”

While Mr. Pedro Abel Beltran Callejas from the Iglesia Cristiana Evangelica Luterana Confesional in Bolivia may not be referring to the words coming from everyone’s mouth, he does highlight the pure gospel message preached and taught by the member churches of the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Conference (CELC). Seventy-four delegates and guests from those churches met May 30 to June 2 in Lima, Peru, for the eighth triennial CELC convention under the theme “We are God’s workmanship—created in Christ Jesus for good works.”

While at the convention, attendees studied essays on sanctification presented by leaders from five different CELC member church bodies. Presentations from church bodies and mission fields allowed attendees to rejoice in the work of the Lord being done around the world.

“I want to take back to Chile a message that we are not alone,” says Mr. Victor Henriquez from the Christian Church of the Lutheran Reformation in Chile. “There are others that believe the same things that we believe. But I didn’t think that there were so many and from so many parts of the world.”

The Christian Church of the Lutheran Reformation in Chile was one of five church bodies that was accepted into associate membership with the CELC at this convention. Others include the Confessional Evangelical Lutheran Church of Albania; St. John’s Lutheran Congregation in Finland; and two sister churches in South Asia.

“Where I’m from it’s very cold. People are not so friendly to the message of Christ. To come here where everyone believes in the Bible—it’s very warming,” says Mr. David Åkerlund, the representative from St. John’s Lutheran Congregation in Finland, a church with only 14 members.

While at the convention, attendees had an opportunity to worship with local Peruvian congregations at the seminary of the Evangelical Lutheran Synod of Peru. Hundreds of people attended this bilingual service.

“I felt like I was at the first Pentecost,” says Rev. Mark Schroeder, WELS president and delegate at the convention. “You’re sitting in a worship service with people who all speak different languages, and yet you see that the Holy Spirit gives unity of faith. It’s amazing to see how the gospel transcends culture, language, and borders. It really drives home that we are one in Christ Jesus.”

The next CELC convention will be held in Grimma, Germany, in 2017, the same year as the 500th anniversary of the posting of Martin Luther’s Ninety-five Theses. This year’s convention voted to assemble a special CELC committee to put together “Ninety-five Theses for the 21st Century” as an anniversary project. The topics for these theses would include Lutheran fundamentals, with an emphasis on where confessional Lutheranism is at odds with contemporary culture, society, and church life. The hope is that these theses would be completed in time for approval by the CELC convention in 2017.

The CELC—composed of 29 member churches worldwide—provides a forum for confessional Lutherans who are in fellowship. Learn more about the CELC and our sister church bodies atwww.celc.info. Also watch for further coverage of this convention in the August Forward in Christ.

Celebrating God’s grace to our synod

On Aug. 10, the WELS Historical Institute is hosting a 150th anniversary celebration of the Landmark Church, which was first used as a church building for Salem, Milwaukee, Wis., and then as a museum for the synod beginning in 1985. Also, the log cabin church that was on this site before the Landmark Church was built was the place where a small group of pastors met in 1850 to adopt the synod’s first constitution. The state of Wisconsin is recognizing the establishment of the Wisconsin synod on this site with a state historical marker during the Aug. 10 celebration.

As Dan Nommensen, vice president of the WELS Historical Institute, notes, “This is an opportunity for all to celebrate the story of God’s grace to the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod.”

The sesquicentennial celebration is free and includes a celebration worship service, dedication of the state historical marker, opening of the Landmark Church’s cornerstone, mini concerts by the 1st Brigade Band, and tours of the museum and nearby cemetery. The festivities begin at 9 a.m. at Salem Landmark Church in Milwaukee and continue throughout the day.

Nommensen says, “In our busy schedules, it’s sometimes hard to find time to recognize and celebrate our past. However, just look at how the Lord has blessed our synod since we first organized in 1850! Think of all the stories and all the history we have from each corner of the synod that now stand as a testimony to the grace of God. Come be a part of that on Aug. 10.”

For more information about the Aug. 10 event or the WELS Historical Institute, visit www.welshistory.org.

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Office move completed

As of June 24, the synod administration’s move to the new WELS Center for Mission and Ministry in Waukesha, Wis., is complete. The move was accomplished in three days after weeks of preparation and planning. There are still a few boxes to unpack and things to get into their proper places, but we are up and running in our new home.

In the weeks prior to the move, some minor renovation and re-configuration of office and meeting space was done. A chapel area was created adjacent to the main lobby area. We estimate that 80 percent of the furnishings for the new building were purchased from the used office furniture market.

We’re filled with thanks as we think about the blessings of this new facility and as we appreciate all the work done so it adequately meets the synod’s needs for years to come.

The Center for Mission and Ministry is located at N16W23377 Stone Ridge Drive in Waukesha, just north of the 1-94 exits at either Hwy 164/J or Hwy 74/F.

A dedication and an open house are planned for early September. Below is a slideshow of the Center for Mission and Ministry.

 

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Volunteers lend help in Oklahoma

Volunteers are at work in Moore, Okla., cleaning up debris and repairing homes after the tornadoes in late May. WELS Christian Aid and Relief and WELS Kingdom Workers are coordinating volunteers throughout the month of July.

The first volunteers arrived around June 20 and began work on the home of Anise Glass, a member of Holy Cross, Oklahoma City. Glass’s house was still standing after the May storms, but her roof and fence were badly damaged and needed replacing.

Glass says, “Before all this happened, I used to tell people I hate my house . . . Now when I look at my house, it’s a whole different thing. I see the Christian love all over that house and the overwhelming outpouring of that love from all my Christian brothers and sisters. It’s very moving and a very overwhelming thing.”

She continues, “There’s no way for me to put into words the gratitude I feel both to God for his mercy and his blessings and then the blessings and gifts from all of our Christian brothers and sisters.”

Much progress was made on Glass’s house, but there are many other families in the area with damaged homes and yards.

Laura Schwartz, a nurse practitioner and volunteer from Milwaukee, Wis., spent nine days in Oklahoma to be available with her nursing skills if anyone got hurt. Thankfully, only her construction skills were needed while she was there.

Schwartz says, “Knowing that I have the ability to help others, that I have the nursing skills and also the physical capabilities to help with these projects, I feel like it’s my way of giving back to the Lord.”

Schwartz, who also volunteered after Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti, encourages others to consider volunteer service as well. “They say with projects like this, the people who come to volunteer always take away so much more than the people who are helped,” she says. “I think that’s really a true statement, because you learn so much about yourself and about others, and you feel like you’ve helped them. It’s just a wonderful feeling.”

Volunteer opportunities are still available by signing up online. To support WELS Christian Aid and Relief and help with needs in Oklahoma, you can give a gift online or send checks to WELS, Re: Christian Aid and Relief tornado disaster relief fund, N16W23377 Stone Ridge Dr, Waukesha, WI 53188.

 

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Record attendance at LWMS 50th

In 2014, Forward in Christ (FIC) will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. Preparations are underway to commemorate the decision in the summer of 1913 to publish a magazine written in English to bring God’s message into its members’ homes.

“We’ve come a long way in 100 years, but we have not changed two things,” says John Braun, FIC executive editor. “First, we still cling to the truths God has revealed to us in the Scriptures. Second, we still wish to communicate with the people in the homes of our synod in everyday language.”

FIC is also looking to communicate with its readers using the technology of today. So as part of its anniversary celebration, the magazine will, for the first time, be offered digitally to individual subscribers, beginning with the July issue.

The digital edition will be offered free from July to December 2013 and then will be available through an individual subscription. “The print version will still be there for you in your mailbox or at church,” says Braun, “but individual subscribers now can read the magazine on a tablet or computer as well.”

Besides offering a new way to read the magazine, FIC is planning on including special articles and features throughout 2014 to look back at the past one hundred years of the synod as seen through the pages of the magazine.

Braun says that reader input also will play an important part in the anniversary celebration. “Tell us why you read the magazine or some of your favorite stories from the magazine through the years,” he says. “Or come up with a creative way to say happy anniversary. We’ll share the best comments in the magazine.” An online form is available to share memories and thoughts at www.wels.net/forwardinchrist.

Find out more about subscribing to Forward in Christ—either in print or digitally—at www.nph.net/efic.

 

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Magazine to celebrate 100 years

In 2014, Forward in Christ (FIC) will be celebrating its 100th anniversary. Preparations are underway to commemorate the decision in the summer of 1913 to publish a magazine written in English to bring God’s message into its members’ homes.

“We’ve come a long way in 100 years, but we have not changed two things,” says John Braun, FIC executive editor. “First, we still cling to the truths God has revealed to us in the Scriptures. Second, we still wish to communicate with the people in the homes of our synod in everyday language.”

FIC is also looking to communicate with its readers using the technology of today. So as part of its anniversary celebration, the magazine will, for the first time, be offered digitally to individual subscribers, beginning with the July issue.

The digital edition will be offered free from July to December 2013 and then will be available through an individual subscription. “The print version will still be there for you in your mailbox or at church,” says Braun, “but individual subscribers now can read the magazine on a tablet or computer as well.”

Besides offering a new way to read the magazine, FIC is planning on including special articles and features throughout 2014 to look back at the past one hundred years of the synod as seen through the pages of the magazine.

Braun says that reader input also will play an important part in the anniversary celebration. “Tell us why you read the magazine or some of your favorite stories from the magazine through the years,” he says. “Or come up with a creative way to say happy anniversary. We’ll share the best comments in the magazine.” An online form is available to share memories and thoughts at www.wels.net/forwardinchrist.

Find out more about subscribing to Forward in Christ—either in print or digitally—at www.nph.net/efic.

 

CURRENT TOGETHER ISSUE

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