Witness, Mercy, Life Together and Restructuring

by Dr. Albert B. Collver III

Among the blessings, gifts and challenges that our Synod faces is the task of restructuring. With the passing of Res. 8–08A at the Synod’s convention in July 2010, the Synod decided to create a more flexible organization by aligning its work around two mission boards. The President’s Office was given the monumental task of (1) continuing existing activities throughout the world and (2) consolidating the former seven program boards and six commissions around the Board for National Mission and the Board for International Mission.

The job of restructuring an organization that has a total budget between $72 million (2011–2012) and $87 million (just over a decade ago) presents many challenges. At the same time, the Lord provides blessings and gifts in the restructuring, one of which is seeing the restructuring through the lens of WITNESS, MERCY, and LIFE TOGETHER.

The internal structure of the national office of The Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod is not of interest in and of itself but only in its role in service to the work of the church. According to the Augsburg Confession, Article 7, the church is the “congregation of saints in which the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered.” Christ’s church is primarily about gathering sinners around the preached Word and the Sacraments of Holy Absolution, Holy Baptism and Holy Communion for the forgiveness of sins.

That is the emphasis of WITNESS (martyria). Once there are two or three believers, the church has a LIFE TOGETHER (koinonia). When individual Christians or the body of Christ sees the neighbor in need, the love of Christ and faith produce works of MERCY (diakonia). The activities of the church can thus be described as Witness (martyria), Mercy (diakonia), Life Together (koinonia).

With this in mind, President Harrison asked his staff and the Restructuring Work Group to develop a structure for the national office modeled after the threefold emphasis. This structure not only reflects the three important emphases for today’s church but also echoes the operation of the first-century church as described by Paul in Gal. 2:7, 9–10. “On the contrary, when they saw I had been entrusted with the Gospel to the uncircumcised, just as Peter had been entrusted with the Gospel to the circumcised . . . And when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. Only, they asked us to remember the poor, the very thing I was eager to do.” The apostles proclaimed the Gospel (Witness). The apostles extended the right hand of fellowship to each other (Life Together). The apostles remembered the poor (Mercy).

The basic premise of the new structure is to take the work formerly done by the seven program boards and six commissions and to organize it into the three basic categories: Witness, Mercy, Life Together (see “Restructuring Areas” below to learn about the basic activity for each area). The Witness (martyria) area focuses on activities centered on the preaching of the Lord’s Word and the administration of the Sacraments. The Mercy (diakonia) area centers on human care and compassion. The Life Together (koinonia) includes aspects of the church’s life that help and support the church’s work of Witness and Mercy.

While not included as “program areas” operated by the President’s Office through the Chief Mission Officer (CMO), conceptually, the Concordia University System, the seminaries, the various commissions (e.g., the Commission on Constitution Matters [CCM], the Commission on Structure, the Commission on Handbook, the Commission on Church Relations and Church Theology [CTCR] and so on) are a part of our Life Together, as is communications, fund development and partner-church relations.

The structure of the LCMS as seen through the lens of Witness, Mercy, Life Together helps every person who serves the church find a place where he or she can contribute according to his or her position and vocation. It helps us keep our attention on the work of the church while we live and exist in this world of budgets, organizational charts and all the other necessary items that go along with being a church whose legal existence is as a nonprofit corporation in the state of Missouri. It helps us keep a churchly, biblical focus.

The threefold emphasis of Witness, Mercy, Life Together is scalable from the Synod at large, to districts, to congregations and even to the individual as we live out our daily Witness, show Mercy to our neighbor, and have a Life Together in Christ under His cross of forgiveness.

Restructuring Areas

Witness (1 John 5:78)

• International Evangelistic Outreach

• International Church Planting and Development

• International Theological Education

• International Schools

• Military Chaplaincy

Mercy (Mark 10:45)

• Mercy Care and Community Development around the World

• Disaster Response and Recovery

• Mercy Medical Teams

• Sanctity of Life

• National Housing

• Institutional Chaplaincy

• Veterans/Soldiers of the Cross

Life Together (1 Cor. 1:9)

• Lutheran Day Schools/Early Childhood

• Stewardship

• Youth

• Worship

• Pastoral Education

• RSO Granting and Management

• Parish Nursing

• Revitalizing/Strengthening Congregations for Outreach

• National Outreach and Church Planting

• Black, Hispanic, and Ethnic Congregational Outreach and Support

• Communications

• Fund Development

• Partner Church Relations

• Rural/Small Town Outreach

> To download a word study on Witness, Mercy, Life Together, go to www.lcms.org/emphasis

> Know that the Lord, He is God! It is He who made us, and we are His; we are His people, and the sheep of His pasture (Ps. 100:3).

About the Author: Dr. Albert B. Collver III is the director of church relations and assistant to LCMS President Rev. Matthew C. Harrison.

May 2011

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