Ventures Bold and New

I am always struck by the account of Jesus preparing breakfast for the disciples after his resurrection. In Matthew’s Gospel, the angel tells the women that Jesus is going before them into Galilee, but no further instructions are given. In John’s account, we find Peter declaring to the others that he is going fishing. It is a return to what is familiar, a comfort zone, if you will. Equally familiar are Jesus’ words to cast the net onto the other side of the boat provides them with another great catch of fish.

The exchange between Jesus and Peter that follows is not just a restoration of Peter, but a sending of Peter. The Lutheran hymnwriter, Herman Stuempfle writes of the charge that Jesus gave to the disciples:

“O Christ, who called the Twelve to rise and follow you
Forsaking old, familiar ways For ventures bold and new.”
(Lutheran Service Book 856, v.1)

The last few months have found us in many respects called out of our comfort zones and what was familiar and safe. Our congregations have not been able to provide the care and encouragement that assembling together affords. These have been difficult and challenging times and has led to the regular refrain “I want things to go back to normal.” The reality is that things never go back to the way they were. Even in the midst of our longing for the “old, familiar ways,” God is doing new things among us even now.

Each summer a band of new teachers, Directors of Christian Education, deaconesses, pastors and vicars are sent out to Missouri District congregations and schools. Our orientation efforts this year will like so many other things be changed and adapted, but we will continue to walk alongside these servants of the Church.

God is also doing a new thing as churches “pivot” to serve their respective flocks in “ventures bold and new” with the unchanging Word of God. From family Sunday School to online Vacation Bible School to creative confirmation programs, this is a time for new approaches with the same old and familiar Word of God. We proclaim the same unchanging message of the changeless Christ in a constantly changing world.

From new mission starts to new workers for the harvest, our God is always doing a new thing in our midst. The theme of this issue of the Missouri District Voice is “New Beginnings.” Please join us in praying for our new servants in our churches and schools. We also invite your prayers for other ventures bold and new from church mission starts to creative approaches to teaching children the faith. Now is the time for us to follow in the steps of Peter as God prepares us to leave what is familiar to where He leads us for the sake of His kingdom.

Finally, I leave you again with words from Herman Stuempfle’s hymn:

“O Christ who sent the Twelve on roads they’d never trod
To serve, to suffer, teach proclaim the nearer reign of God;
Send us on ways where faith transcend timidity,
Where love informs and hope sustains both life and ministry.”
(LSB 856 v. 4)

Fraternally in Christ,

President Lee Hagan

Rev. Dr. R. Lee Hagan was elected as the fifth president of the Missouri District-LCMS in 2015.  He is a 1992 graduate of Concordia College (now University), Seward, Nebraska.  He graduated from Concordia Seminary, St. Louis with a Master of Divinity in 1996 and Doctor of Ministry in 2011.  Dr. Hagan served as associate pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Evansville, Indiana from 1996-2002.  In 2002, he was called to serve as senior pastor of St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, Concordia, Missouri until he was elected district president.  Additionally, he served as the Interim Director of LCMS Rural and Small Town Mission from 2011-2012.  He has previously served as Missouri District first vice-president from 2012-2015, fourth vice-president from 2011-2012, and chairman of the Board for Congregational Services from 2006-2011.  He has presented workshops and retreats on a host of ministry topics including elders, rural ministry, outreach and ministry to inactives.  He has written articles for Lutheran Witness, Concordia Historical Quarterly and Missio Apostolica.  He has led mission trips to Cambodia, China, Guatemala and the Bahamas.  Dr. Hagan is married to Jill (nee Johnson), who works as a speech-language pathologist.  They have two children, Caroline and Jack.