Nearly 400 people attended Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary’s (WLS) annual fall symposium on Sept. 19-20, either virtually or on campus in Mequon, Wis. Attendees heard three papers presented on the topic of compassion ministry.
Dr. Keith Wessel, professor at Martin Luther College, presented an essay on the biblical basis for Christian compassion. Christ’s compassion for sinners, demonstrated in the sacrifice he offered for all, moved early Christians to love and serve their fellow believers. They may not have established a highly organized ministry of compassion, but their sincere love took concrete action to help those in need.
Dr. Glen Thompson, professor emeritus at Asia Lutheran Seminary, presented a historical overview of Christian compassion through the centuries—from Constantine to the present time. The Christian church historically showed compassion for the hurting because of Christ’s love for them, and not exclusively, or even primarily, as an opportunity to share the gospel with them. Too often, compassion ministry has been considered valuable only insofar as it serves as “a bridge to telling others about the Savior.” It may be that, but a Christian congregation wants to serve out of love for the neighbor, to the glory of God.
Rev. Ryan Kolander, pastor at Palabra de Vida Lutheran Church, Detroit, Mich., presented an essay on creating a balanced culture of compassion in today’s current contexts of ministry. He addressed the pitfalls and fears facing those who desire to help the hurting in their community. Compassion ministry begins with listening to people and serving them in a responsible and meaningful way. The Lord has given us the opportunity to love others as he has loved us.
The archive of the Symposium essays is available at wisluthsem.org.