Pastor Jeff Smith looked at his brothers in the ministry. He’d been thinking for weeks about what to say to his circuit. “We have an opportunity for remarkable ministry before us. Because of the growing violence and recent tragedies in Burma we’re seeing record numbers of people taking refuge in our area. These people are often Buddhist, sometimes Muslim or Animist, and very, very rarely Christian. We need to do something to reach out to these lost souls.”
“That’s great, Jeff, and I appreciate your concern. But I’ve tried reaching that community and the simple fact is that I’m an outsider. I get so far, but I can’t get any further. It’s just been one exercise in frustration after another to keep trying.”
Pastor Smith thought for a moment, and then remarked, “What about Zeya? Surely he hasn’t been a frustration to you.”
“Of course not. He’s been a joy since he first heard the Gospel, and he’s such a leader in the Burmese community that I hoped he could get me in the door with them, but…”
“Why get you in the door? Why not have him do the ministry himself?”
“You know the answer to that as well as I do, Jeff. He’s just not trained for ministry.”
John looked at his wife across the dinner table and sighed. “Sarah, I just don’t know what I’m supposed to do. When I agreed to be an elder in the church I thought maybe I’d be helping with ministry by visiting people in the hospital, but it’s just snowballed since Pastor took that call.”
Sarah set down her fork and looked at her husband. He was a good man. No one she knew would even think about debating that point. But he just wasn’t…ready, she decided. He cared about people, took care of them, even as he took care of her and the children, and he’d done a good job so far, but she could tell he was feeling out of his depth. “John…” she began.
“I really wish I could just quit my job and go and learn how to do this right, but…what would they do in the meantime? We’re talking about years. If they could just call someone in the meantime it wouldn’t be so bad, but I can’t just leave them alone…”
Stories like these aren’t uncommon in the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod today. We live in a world where the movement of people and the natural growth of communities is every day opening up new cultures and communities with opportunities to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But how will they know if there’s no one there to share with them?
Today our Synod is challenged with countless opportunities to proclaim the gospel to the nations. These opportunities include the numerous ethnic groups present in almost every community, as well as the many people who are living their lives apart from a knowledge of the truth of the gospel. To meet this challenge, and to also provide for churches who find themselves unable for whatever reason to call a pastor, the 2007 convention of Synod has authorized the Specific Ministry Pastor, or SMP, program.