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International missions in the 21st century

October 2, 2013 One Comment


Editor’s note: Lutheran Church–Canada (LCC) recently released its 2013 Missions Newsletter, highlighting its various mission work around the world. Here Rev. Michael Keith attempts to explain why LCC does mission work the way it does.

by Michael Keith

The proclamation of the Gospel is something which our Lord accomplishes through His Church. The Lord of the Church instituted the Office of the Holy Ministry so that this proclamation of the Gospel would take place among His people. Jesus also works through His Church to call and gather those into the family of God who have not heard the Good News. Through God’s people and pastors—the Church—Jesus proclaims the Good News to the world and draws all people to Himself. St. Paul writes: “How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching?” (Romans 10:14).

How do we as God’s baptized people go about being the Church in the international mission field in our day and age? This is a question that Lutheran Church–Canada’s (LCC) Committee for Missions and Social Ministry Services considers on a regular basis. This brief article seeks to outline and explain LCC’s international mission practice.

LCC’s international mission practice is to support indigenous churches in their mission and leadership training. Through this support, the indigenous church body is strengthened to continue their work autonomously and contextually. With the support of LCC, the indigenous church raises up its own leaders through whom Jesus continues the proclamation of the Good News in that land and in that culture.

With the support of LCC, the indigenous church raises up its own leaders through whom Jesus continues the proclamation of the Good News in that land and in that culture.

This support is seen in LCC’s work in providing seminary education in Ukraine, Central America, and South East Asia. Furthermore, LCC supports several indigenous missionaries and their work in these areas. To get an idea of the breadth of LCC’s missions visit www.lutheranchurch.ca/missions. Keep up to date with LCC mission news at www.canadianlutheran.ca/category/mission-news/. You might be surprised to see how Jesus is working through LCC to proclaim the Good News in many places across the globe!

Some might question why we do not send North American missionaries into the international mission field as we have in the past. The simple reason is that to send North American missionaries into the international mission field with North American salaries and benefits is unaffordable. It also presents certain cultural problems and barriers that do not need to be contended with when indigenous missionaries work among their own people. Supporting the indigenous church in this way is the best use of the resources LCC is entrusted with for international missions.

Protocol agreements between LCC and its international partner churches encompass a wide variety of plans, programs, projects, and activities. These have proven an effective tool for missions, especially as the indigenous church becomes enabled to carry on with training leaders themselves.

By LCC supporting the indigenous church to raise up leaders from among themselves, the indigenous church becomes good stewards and learns how to best care for their church workers. The result is that the indigenous church does not view LCC as “ruling” over them but instead as equal partners in the Gospel.

Jesus proclaims His saving Gospel through His Church. The Lord promises to work through His Word when it is proclaimed to create faith where it is lacking and to sustain faith where it is found. We can be confident that as we support the work of the Lord through His Church in LCC’s Missions, the saving Good News will continue to ring out to all nations.


Rev. Michael Keith is pastor of St. Matthew Lutheran Church (Stony Plain, Alberta) and a member of LCC’s Committe for Missions and Social Ministry.

One Comment »

  • Mike Kuhn said:

    Thank you for this article, Michael! It is a big part of the answer to a question that I was asked many times when I was in the parish: “Why isn’t LC-C sending missionaries to foreign fields anymore?” The end-goal of any missionary endeavor is to plant a church that raises up and trains its own leaders and engages in ministry and mission work of its own without having to rely on a church from another country to do it. LC-C is helping many partner churches around the world to do just that and this is a good thing.

    However, we would do well to recognize that there is still a need to send missionaries (despite the cost you noted) to nations, tribes and language groups that have little-to-no church presence. Cross-cultural mission work is a messy business with a freckled past, but despite its complexities, God has used foreign missionaries and those who were willing to send them to spread his kingdom around the world since the time of the apostles. There are still nations and people groups today who do not have a church that can preach the Gospel to them and who would benefit from having a foreign missionary sent to them. Is LC-C willing and able to open one of these new fields?

    I hope that LC-C continues to partner with sister churches in the world to help them in their mission work. However, I also hope that LC-C will keep its eyes peeled for opportunities to open new fields where the church has not – as of yet – been well established (if it has been established at all). When/if they do send missionaries to new fields, I trust that they will work toward passing the baton of the work to gifted indigenous leaders as they have done in the past. Then, perhaps, they could start the cycle again in another part of the world.

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