Lutherans Forge Ahead on Plan to Reach 100M People

The Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod has raised more than half of the $100 million it needs to launch 2,000 new congregations, revitalize existing ones and support outreach efforts worldwide.

The denomination is looking to complete the fundraising campaign by Reformation Day 2011.

Called Fan into Flame, the campaign was launched in 2005 in an effort to gather support for the LCMS Ablaze! movement, through which Lutherans hope to share the Gospel with 100 million people worldwide by the year 2017. That year marks the 500th anniversary of the Reformation when German theologian Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg.

Ablaze! is not a program or a campaign, but rather a mission vision, LCMS has explained. LCMS World Mission adopted the new purpose statement in 2002 with the goal of igniting a movement that will change the culture of Lutheran church bodies to be one in which every member is fully engaged in personal mission involvement. Its initiatives include planting 2,000 new churches, renewing 2,000 existing ones, increasing by half the number of career missionaries and increasing support for LCMS' 34 partner churches around the world.

As of July 1, the denomination has collected just over $58.9 million, LCMS First Vice President Dr. William Diekelman announced Wednesday.

Already, Fan into Flame has allowed local churches to start new ministries and plant churches and has also enabled the deployment of 29 new missionaries to mission fields around the world.

The fund has also enabled the LCMS to assist their partner churches overseas, including the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Ghana and its seminary, which was experiencing difficulties accommodating the growing number of pastoral students. With a lack of classroom space, the LCMS is funding a new seminary compound to allow for more students to be trained to share the Gospel.

Funds are also being used to support new church planters in Sri Lanka, a predominantly Buddhist country, and to open Concordia International School in Hanoi, Vietnam, for the 2011-12 academic year.

According to Diekelman, 1,420 of LCMS' 6,200 congregations have so far participated in the campaign. More have indicated their willingness to support the outreach efforts.

"We want to thank God for blessing this effort and for the generosity of you, His people," said Dr. Thomas Zehnder, executive director of LCMS World Mission, to delegates at LCMS' 64th regular convention in Houston. "We ask for the prayerful support of everyone, that these efforts will be blessed and that through faithful Gospel witness the Holy Spirit will bring many to salvation through faith in Christ Jesus."

Delegates adopted a resolution shortly after the report, celebrating God's blessings through the campaign and asking that the synod's districts and congregations complete their local campaigns.

The LCMS is the second largest Lutheran denomination in the country with about 2.4 million members. Its 2010 convention concludes Saturday.

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