The new year brings a new reason for hope. As promised, Nebraska District President Snow produced a summary report on the regional meetings he orchestrated with other District Presidents in four districts so far. You can read about the reasons Snow organized these meetings here. On January 2, President Snow shared his summary report on the Nebraska District website. You can download a copy to share here.
We Are More United Than We Think
Unsurprisingly, the pastors and layfolk gathered in these meetings from all “sides” of Missouri were united in their results. We are more united than we think. The same five learnings and three priorities rose from each meeting.
Why? The broad middle of Missouri is actually not as divided as some propose. Because we don’t meet and talk together about real issues we face as followers of Jesus, Missouri Lutherans tend to believe with Elijah “I’m the only one who is faithful.” (1 Kings 19:9-18).
That’s not true. God has not left us alone, without one another. Just as the Lord told Elijah, there are “seven thousand in Israel who have not bowed to Baal” (1 Kings 19:18), there is more faithfulness in the LCMS than some report. We just don’t know one another well enough to look past our fears and understand our unity. Elijah wasn’t alone. Neither are we.
Snow: A Leader Who Actually Reports
It’s refreshing to see a LCMS leader fulfilling his promises and focusing on a hopeful future. Snow also shares a strategy to get us to a preferred future instead of just telling tales of our glorious past.
We are God’s people right now. We need hope. DP Snow shows a path and strategy to get there.
What we don’t need is someone who says they will save us from the world’s problems. We need a true leader who has a plan to get the LCMS moving to achieve our Lord’s vision for His Church until He comes.
In addition, Snow proved himself a collaborative leader by partnering with Presidents Scott Sailer of South Dakota, Steve Turner of Iowa District West, and Mike Gibson of the Pacific Southwest district. The sign of a good leader is building partnerships with others to achieve more, utilizing the full diversity of gifts God gave His Church.
Merely surviving is not a God-sized goal. Jesus sends us out into His world and expects us to be faithful stewards of His forgiveness and love. He’s counting on us to act as His Body and be His witness of salvation in Him alone.
Five Team Learnings
Through the meeting process, groups Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa West, and Pacific Southwest Districts processed a vision for the LCMS and looked to our future hope. Presidents Snow reports the five primary common concepts that emerged:
- First and foremost, we want to focus TOGETHER on Divine Truth with Scriptures and our Confessions. We need regular gatherings with honest, fraternal conversations among the brothers where there are concerns of doctrine and practice. This is part of our ongoing work in Nebraska as we work on circuit visitor training and as we develop regional Koinonia opportunities to work through troubling issues.
- Gathering around God’s Word, we want to foster trust and relationships, both around God’s Word and with opportunity to play and celebrate our hope, joy, and love in Christ with one another. We are the body of Christ and need each other. We are not enemies. We are family.
- We want to continue to build a culture of discipleship: Empowering adults. Equipping parents. Lay leadership. Strengthening youth and Lutheran school ministries. Creative school planting.
- As people of hope, we want to engage our communities with the compassion of Christ and reach out with the Gospel of Christ. We equip, empower, and engage the whole Body of Christ for service and witness in all our vocations.
- Healthy congregations and healthy circuits/districts/Synod need healthy workers. We want to continue to build a culture of holistic, relational health for the physical, emotional, and spiritual care of church workers for the restoration of hope and joy.
A Good Leader’s Appraisal
Looking at these five common concepts, Snow makes a realistic appraisal. That’s what good leaders do. When good leaders face the future, they make practical observations that lead to positive strategies instead of cultivating a culture of fear and suspicion. This is what President Snow reported:
“None of this is original. None of this is rocket science. This is the hard work of being the Church, being the body of Christ.
Biblical hope is the anticipation of a favorable outcome under God’s guidance. This hope will not come with more resolutions and tightened bylaws. They cannot lead us forward.
Ministry happens when people spend time with one another in a discipleship posture around the word of God. And when something disrupts those relationships, rather than walking away or throwing a punch, we need to double down our efforts toward repentance and reconciliation. There is no quick solution or easy answer…
…There is no golden age of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod that we need to rediscover. Despite all the prognosticators of her demise, I firmly believe the LCMS is still the best thing going and has an important role in Christendom ahead.
We expect doctrinal fidelity and mission priority. As the Body of Christ, it is critical that we remain committed to both and to one another.” [Emphasis added]
That sounds like the words of a leader who understands the LCMS and is ready to lead all of us through the challenges of developing relationships built on our common confession of faith — of living out our identity as the Body of Christ.
Change Starts With Me
President Snow doesn’t make a prescription for the LCMS in concept. His observations lead to a personal commitment to lead change that starts with him:
“Our personal lives and relationships are our loudest gospel message. God calls us to live in and live out that Gospel first in our own walk of faith and to our spouse and those closest to us. That witness speaks to those around us as we reach out to build stronger relationships with our fellow workers in Circuit and District. This is how we live out our Christian hope in and live out purity of doctrine and the priority mission of the local congregation.” [Emphasis added]
Snow Develops A Plan
Based on the common results of these district leader gatherings, President Snow has developed practical ministry priorities for his district that could well be suited for the whole LCMS. They are “bottom-up” rather than “top-down” priorities that can build the foundation for a healthy LCMS. Adopting these priorities locally would begin to positive change in our LCMS culture. We could move from our cycles of fear and mistrust to building the foundations of hope in Jesus’ Body. Snow calls the three-fold ministry priorities “It’s Time for Hope.”
- Hope: Church Worker Relational Health
“A major focus in Nebraska is Worker Wellness. That means spiritual, physical, vocational, intellectual, and especially relational health.
Many of our workers are hurting and their families are struggling. Our personal lives and relationships are our loudest Gospel message. God calls us to live in and live out that Gospel first in our own walk of faith and to our spouse and those closest to us. Too often in caring for the Bride of Christ, we neglect our own bride.
To accomplish this we must train, encourage and develop a practice of Sabbath rest, personal connection to God outside of professional roles, and time for self, marriage, family, and primary friendships.” [Emphasis added]
- Hope—Healthy Circuits and District
“Our unity is in Christ. We need one another as the Body of Christ. Disregard and division weaken the Body.
We cannot walk together if we do not talk together and we cannot talk together if we do not meet together. Much of the tension in our Synod is centered in the relationships of our pastors, or lack thereof. We need to foster Healthy Circuits and District gatherings.
We need a Synod where diverse opinions listen to one another, dialog, and cooperate — collegially and collaboratively. We need to be committed to time together. Practically, it requires our time commitment to our circuits, conferences, and personal conversations gathered around God’s Word and our Confessions. We must work to share and live them and not just study them, practicing transparency and building trust.
We need to build a stronger sense of community so workers experience joy, unconditional love, community identity, and loving correction.
Again, all this takes time together to build trust, to listen, and to speak to one another; time together to solidify our common vision and to foster collaboration in mission.” [Emphasis added]
- Hope—Congregation Focus – Mercy and Witness
“The fundamental location to live out the great commission of doctrine and mission is in the local congregation. Supporting the local work of congregations is the first and main priority. Worker relational health and stronger relationships with our fellow workers in Circuit and District will assist us to implement Jesus’ Great Commandment and His Great Commission. That must be our fucus.
The hope we have as Synod is built on Christ and His promise to complete what He began. Our spiritual ancestors left Germany under religious persecution with hope of building a church on confession and mission. As the writer of Hebrews reminds us,
“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near. (Hebrews 10:23-25 ESV)”
Confession empowers mission and mission proclaims confession. We live in and live out our baptismal identity in Jesus. We work to engage our community, showing the mercy of Christ and giving witness to the Gospel of Christ in our various vocations. Our focus is on the long haul and not the quick sale. This is a time for Hope as we live in and live out purity of doctrine and the priority mission in the local congregation. [Emphasis added]
Synod Will Not Save Us
In closing, Snow reminds us of the centrality of Jesus in our lives, first and only. To be His Body, we must act as the Body of Christ and build one another up as St. Paul directs in Ephesians 4. Snow’s plan supports just such a vision:
“The church does not need another savior. The church already has the Savior, crucified, risen, ascended, and ruling. Our hope is in Christ as the whole body is at work. This is our life together as the Body of Christ. Gathered around His Word and Sacraments and guided by our Confessions, we live in and live out our baptismal identity in the DNA of Jesus. I need you. You need me. We need each other. “For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ.” (1 Corinthians 12:12).” [Emphasis added]
It’s Time for a Leader Like Snow
Our Congregations – Our Synod supports the hopeful vision, his priorities, and the ministry plan President Snow proposes. His name should certainly be one our congregations should consider nominating for Synod President.
If we are to sustain and grow our work for Christ and His Kingdom among us, we need hopeful leaders with a plan rather than leaders who use fear and suspicion to exert control. That kind of leadership doesn’t work in our congregations. It certainly doesn’t reflect our unity in Christ and His control of our lives so that we live for Him and for one another:
“For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised.” (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)