I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.2 Timothy 4
Rearranging synod structure at the International Center is a bit like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. It doesn’t solve the real problem, but it gives you something to do for a while before reality hits, and it makes you feel better because they really do look better this way.
What does the church really need from her national office. This is how I see it:
We don’t need “congregational services” officers (or whatever variant we are calling them these days) that do not serve a parish, and that are duplicates of what is done in most districts anyway. When a new Stewardship Director was called, he refused to leave his congregation. So did the other men that were called, because if you don’t have to plan a congregational budget each year, and then live with it, you not only quickly fall out of touch, but its difficult to maintain credibility. The current stewardship office is the most efficient, faithful, and useful it has ever been. This is a model for synod service to congregations – taking the best and most creative from among our corps of faithful parish pastors, and connecting them to pastors who could use advice and instruction. No one is good at everything. Rather than setting up self-appointed office drones as experts, the synod works best when she brings together those who can teach on a topic with those who want instruction. The synod should serve as more of a networking center to offer resources from congregation to congregation, instead of a building filled with non-congregational experts. We can’t afford it anymore, and we should stop trying. It is long past time to acknowledge that the experts are not in office buildings, but in the pulpits of our congregations. This needs to be the model for district resource officers as well. District offices should not have any full-time “expert” executives. If they won’t relinquish them willingly, the new bylaws under proposal #1 will solve the problem.
We do need accountants. We do need people who know international laws about work and travel regulations for our foreign missionaries. Providing essential paperwork and red-tape support for workers in the field is necessary. I’m not convinced it takes several full-time pastors as executives to accomplish it. Find people who are good at paperwork. The same goes for accountants, etc. We need lay-people who are competent in these positions. Our synod’s unrestricted dollars are in free fall. Make sure each dollar goes to a qualified and essential worker who serves a specific function in supporting workers in the field who spread the seed of the Gospel by preaching and teaching. The goal is not producing pamphlets and glossy inserts. The goal is using congregational dollars to pay for the boring but necessary parts, so the missionary dollars raised can go 100% to support the work of a missionary in the field. And if this means hiring someone to get the word out via glossy inserts, then let’s do that. But again, that’s not a pastoral position. Pastoral oversight (by parish pastors) of office workers who do office work can be effective. The Wyoming district puts on an annual evangelism conference with attendance that would make most larger districts envious. And we do it with only part-time help and a volunteer committee.
Concrete Proposal :
A synod that serves and supports congregations, and offers practical help for the work of the church.
Much of this is covered under proposal #1. No pastors would work in the International Center full time. Nor would they be deployed in Congregations. Congregations would provide the workers, and they would be deployed part-time for the synod. The synod offices would be used only for support personnel as needed. This would mean a significant reduction in personnel.
Because we need people to work through the administrative aspects of our various mission work (Mercy Work and Gospel Outreach) we would have qualified laity who would handle the administrative / paperwork aspects of this. But even they could be deployed into congregations – perhaps working near the ordained executives and their congregations.
An evaluation of personnel and space requirements would be undertaken. The Synod owns three major properties in the Saint Louis area: The International Center, CPH, and Concordia Seminary. How much space is really needed, and how do we best use it? Would it be beneficial to move the IC to one of the other properties, or to move those other properties to the IC? Would it be better to sell the IC and obtain a more modest building? Or is the IC right-sized for our needs? Full time employees of the synod would only be administrative and only as needed for specific and easily explained and understood reasons of Gospel outreach (in the case of International Missions) or congregational support (in the case of National Mission).