St. Paul is the Christian Church’s preeminent missionary. He traveled extensively throughout Asia Minor and Europe on his missionary journeys as he established congregations and set in place pastors to oversee the spiritual care of the flocks in the various cities. But,he also returned to many of the churches that he had established to encourage them in their work.
Additionally, he maintained an extensive correspondence with those congregations, but also congregations
he had yet to visit. St. Paul never understood the Church exclusively as a congregation. He certainly
addressed his letters to local congregations that he identified as churches. But he also understood that
the individual congregations were part of something larger.
To the church at Corinth, St. Paul wrote, “Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord; and there are varieties of activities, but it is the same God who empowers them all in everyone. To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” (12:4-7) However,
the understanding of the varieties of gift or the common good should not be limited to a single congregation.
A broader view of church than simply a single congregation would make possible many new opportunities for service to the same Lord and God and for a true common good. Jim Tomberlin and Warren Bird write in their book, Better Together, “Churches…are sensing that they could fulfill their God-given mission better together than separately, and they’re exploring new ways to join forces for the advancement of God’s kingdom.”
We have examples of such shared ministry across Missouri. From association schools and LWML zones
to circuit youth events and Mission Action Groups, there are positive collaborations where the variety of gifts from a number of congregations are shared for a common good and mission. But there are also examples of large churches and small churches sharing pastors, community outreach and new mission starts.
Two great legacies in the history of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod are our unwavering commitment to
the Word of God and our missionary zeal. Our shared commitment to the Word of God and mission allows
us to look for ways in which we can serve better together than separately. My hope is that we would work to share our resources and gifts for the sake of the common good as we proclaim the Gospel in our congregations, schools and communities. Shared ministry and shared mission are the fruits of our shared confession of the faith. May the Lord strengthen us through His Word so that we may “maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3) that we might be better together!
Fraternally in Christ,
President Lee Hagan