Sowing the Seeds of God's Word–Church Planting
The student newspaper at Concordia University Nebraska is The Sower. I spent a lot of time as a student there working on the newspaper. I wrote articles on everything from Spring Weekend to sporting events, a presidential search to dorm renovations. Rarely did newspaper articles elicit responses in the forms of letters to the editor. But each month, a new batch of articles would be written and a new edition would be published.
Thirty plus years later and I am still writing newsletter articles of which I am unsure how many will people read. That fits with the parable of the Sower that Jesus tells so matter-of-factly, “A sower went out to sow.” Our Lord tells us that the seed that is sown is the Word of God. The sower trusts not in his own abilities to sow, but in the One who gives the growth to the seed. The late Dr. Martin Franzmann writes, “It is a fragile and defenseless word, as defenseless as the Servant-Messiah whom it proclaims. It can be rejected, even as the Servant can be rejected.” (Discipleship, p. 88)
God continues to sow the seed as missionaries and laypeople involved in church planting spread the Word of God far and wide in their communities. Their labors for the Kingdom do not always produce the harvest yield as witnessed at Pentecost, but they are still used by God as “his reckless love scatters abroad the goodly seed.” (Franzmann, LSB 586 v. 3). We do not set out to sow seeds or begin mission work because we are sure that the Word will produce an abundant harvest, but because we are called to be faithful. Dr. Jeffrey Gibbs writes, “One who hears the parable of the Sower will not expect the ministry of Jesus – either in the first century or in the twenty-first century – automatically to be successful in the ways that fallen human nature considers to be success. In our own day, as in the first century, when the message of the reign of God in Jesus is told, it will not always ‘work’ in the sense of attracting droves of believers and not inciting opposition.” (Matthew 11:2-20:34, p. 687)
This issue of The VOICE focuses on the opportunities and even challenges related to Church Planting. More than anything, we invite your prayers for the work of our church planters and the laypeople who assist them in being the instruments by which God recklessly sows the seed of His Word in communities across Missouri. We are thankful for the church planting efforts that are happening across the Missouri District and the ways in which our God is carrying out His mission. From large cities to small towns, there is much for us to give thanks to God in this important work.
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.