A Final Word…The Teacher as Missionary

Nov 13th, 2018 | Category: A Final Word, Columns
By Daniel Gard

When we think of a missionary we might imagine a person from one country sent to proclaim the Gospel in some far-off land. Or we might think of a pastor who is called to start a new congregation in a place where none exists. So we pray for and support those so called by God to travel and dedicate their lives to finding the lost sheep for whom the Good Shepherd has died and risen.

Yet I would suggest that our Lutheran schools and Concordia University System together form the Church’s single greatest missionary force. There was a day when any LCMS school (grade school, high school or higher educational institution) would be populated almost exclusively by Lutheran students from Lutheran homes. They would come as baptized children of God who needed to receive an excellent education and to be nurtured in the faith in which they were baptized and raised.

For most of our schools this is no longer the case. The need for excellence in the classroom has not changed. But the spiritual needs of students have changed. Some students are Lutheran just as the students our schools have always received. But many others come from Christian backgrounds other than Lutheran. Some come from non-Christian homes in which Jesus is never considered. The classroom of a Lutheran school is increasingly complex with a diverse student body that has one thing in common spiritually: they all need Jesus Christ.

If you are a Lutheran educator, you are a missionary. If you are a Christian educator in a Lutheran school at any level, you are a missionary. You do not necessarily travel to foreign soil to seek those who need to hear the Gospel­—God brings them to you. They are in your classroom. They are in the families of those God brings to your classroom. My hope and prayer is that we can embrace and rejoice in the opportunity that we as Christian and Lutheran educators have to not only pass on knowledge but, most importantly, to be faithful and energetic missionaries.

I read about and hear the predictions of so many that the Lutheran Church in the western world is shrinking and will continue to shrink. Often, these dire analyses are based in demographic studies which, taken on their own, do indeed foretell a grim future. Statistics, however, are not the complete story and arguably are not the true story at all. The Cross and Resurrection continue to contradict our human doubts and fears. Nowhere is this truer than in a Lutheran school. God’s missionaries are in the classroom. You, the Lutheran Christian educator wherever you are, are the frontline of the mission field. Whether you are teaching three year olds or university third-year dissertation students, your mission field is right in front of you. And God has given you all that you need to be His missionary, for He has given you the Gospel.

Each student and each family member is someone who was uniquely created by God. Even more, each one is so loved by God that he gave His only Son that he or she might have eternal life. When I pray for the mission of the Church I pray for those who serve to establish preaching stations and congregations here and abroad. But I also pray for you. God’s love is greater than any human pessimism or defeatism. And that love flows through you to His children. You are a missionary. LEJ