Friends and partners in mission: The author of Hebrews writes, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see. This is what the ancients were commended for” (11:1-2). The author continues by pointing to examples of how the patriarchs and matriarchs of ancient Israel lived by faith. The words about Abraham particularly resonate with us today: “By faith Abraham, when called to go… obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going” (11:8).
This is a reminder to us of who we are, of where we find and where we don’t find our home, and of how we by faith follow God in his mission. We are told that, by faith, Abraham “made his home in the promised land like a stranger in a foreign country; he lived in tents, as did Isaac and Jacob, who were heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city with foundations, whose architect and builder is God” (11:9-10). In fact, all the faithful people listed in Hebrews 11 “saw the things promised by God and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on earth… They were longing for a better country, a heavenly one, therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God…” (11:13,16).
To call him our God—this is so good! We admit we are not yet home, nor is our neighbor. When the CLB Mission Team and Council of Directors planned our ministry budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, we did so in consideration of circumstances, anticipating the reasonable possibility of contribution decline in a context of national unrest and an atmosphere of polarization. The vulnerable uncertainty of a deadly pandemic was hindering our congregations’ abilities to meet and minister in person. So we did our best to pursue our vision, support our mission, and plan accordingly financially. We adjusted our budgets, tightened our expenses, tabled some plans.
Still, the vital mission of Lutheran Brethren Seminary ministered forward. Church leaders need to be trained, rooted in the Word. Lutheran Brethren International Mission moved forward. We would not bring missionaries home, but planned for the advance of the gospel. Likewise our newly restructured North American Mission continued with a vision and strategy to plant churches, and also to serve the vitality of our existing congregations to live out our calling as a disciple-making movement.
With that background, I want to express gratitude to God and for you, Church of the Lutheran Brethren. You have selflessly and sacrificially responded to God’s call, and you have embraced this vital mission we share. As many of you know, year-end giving is crucial to the support of our shared CLB mission. The months of December (calendar year end) and April (fiscal year end) are especially important.
Our target goal for contributions for the month of December—set with caution, humility, hope, and prayer—was just over $610,000. The gifts of God’s people in that month expressed a great faithfulness, sacrifice, and expectancy for our shared mission. I’m so humbled and grateful to our Lord and his people to report $620,000 was received for our shared mission and for the gospel in December, reaching and exceeding our goal by $10,000. Thank you. Thank with me the Lord of the Church and our disciple-making God for this great outpouring.
The CLB fiscal year will end on April 30, 2021. As of February 15, we have received $2,023,217 of our $2,650,000 million fiscal-year goal. Yes, we have a way to go. But as of today, I want to report that we are grateful, and by God’s grace and your continued partnership, we are on the way toward reaching our goal. So on behalf of all the shared ministries of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren, and on behalf of all those longing foreigners and strangers on earth who will yet hear the gospel and find their home because of this mission, I say, “Thank you.”
Rev. Paul Larson is President of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren.