As Lutheran Mission Federation celebrates 90 years, it’s planning for the arrival of a very special guest for Sunday’s annual reformation service.
The Rev. Matthew Harrison, who has served as president of the Lutheran Church—Missouri Synod since 2010, will preach a special sermon at 6 p.m. at Immanuel Lutheran Church, 605 S. Walnut St., Seymour.
He also will preach during Immanuel’s regular Sunday services at 9 and 11:15 a.m. All three services are open to the public.
“We would love to have as many people come as possible,” said Ron Rieckers, who has been president of Lutheran Mission Federation since 2008 and a member since 2006.
“He’s a great speaker and a very powerful one,” he said of Harrison. “He travels all over the world because he meets with Lutherans from other countries and things like that. He’s constantly going. I don’t know how he does it.”
Considering how busy Harrison stays, Rieckers said it took him reaching out to the St. Louis, Missouri-based LCMS office well in advance to see if Harrison was available.
Harrison was scheduled to speak at the Jackson County Fair in 2020, but that didn’t happen when the fair was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This year, Immanuel is celebrating its 150th anniversary since the pandemic prevented that from happening last year. When the Rev. Ralph Blomenberg said he when he able to get Harrison to come to Sunday morning’s services, Rieckers said he wanted to have him stay and preach that night.
“Not only is it next to impossible to get him, it’s almost impossible to get him on reformation day because everybody is wanting that,” Rieckers said. “We try to plan our events sometimes a couple years in advance. This reformation (service) is an annual thing. It’s just a matter of who are we going to get.”
Along with preaching at Sunday’s services, Harrison is arriving Saturday for a meet-and-greet at Zion Lutheran Church in Seymour with local Lutheran pastors and members of the Lutheran Mission Federation board.
“I don’t believe we’ve had a president of the synod here in Jackson County for about 40 years, so this is a big deal,” Rieckers said.
Harrison is a native of Sioux City, Iowa, and holds a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from Morningside College in his hometown and a Master of Divinity and a Master of Sacred Theology from Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne.
He pursued additional graduate study at Concordia Seminary, St. Louis and has received honorary doctorates from Concordia University Ann Arbor and the seminary in Fort Wayne.
Harrison served for nine years as executive director of LCMS World Relief and Human Care. During that time, the organization coordinated the $14 million LCMS response to Hurricane Katrina and the multimillion-dollar responses to the tsunami in Asia and the earthquake in Haiti and managed relationships with some 120 LCMS Recognized Service Organizations and other inter-Lutheran social ministry organizations.
The organization also worked in consultation with LCMS partner/sister churches to build capacity during numerous mercy outreach efforts and managed LCMS pro-life efforts.
As president of LCMS, Harrison is the chief ecclesiastical supervisor of the synod and is responsible for the national program ministries of the LCMS, including the Office of International Mission, which calls and employs some 150 missionaries globally.
Harrison also serves as chairman of the board of the International Lutheran Society of Wittenberg (Old Latin School), which hosts some 40 students and church planters from the European Union and beyond who are studying to become ordained pastors.
In addition, he chairs the board of the Lutheran Center for Religious Liberty and serves on the executive committee of the International Lutheran Council.
Harrison is active in the pro-life movement and frequently speaks at such events. He was one of a select group of pro-life leaders asked to take part in the D.C. March for Life during the COVID-19 lockdown.
Harrison and his wife, Kathy, live in Ballwin, Missouri, and are members of Village Lutheran Church in Ladue, where he also serves as assistant pastor.
Rieckers said there are more than 2 million LCMS Lutherans in the United States.
Locally, Lutheran Mission Federation has a little more than 6,000 communicant members.
It was formed July 19, 1931, after 46 delegates got together and saw a need for planting churches. Over the years, they went as far as Rushville, Bedford, Shelbyville, Greensburg and Austin to do that.
“One of the methods they used is a trailer. We had a gospel trailer, they called it. They went everywhere with that trailer,” Rieckers said. “They even one time 42 consecutive nights went from place to place. Then they had set up a tent, and that’s where they would preach. They did that trying to get churches started, and they would see what kind of response they got and then they would say, ‘Well, let’s try planting a church here.’”
While some churches folded, Rieckers said the group didn’t let failure stop them.
Today, churches involved in Lutheran Mission Federation are Redeemer, Zion, Immanuel, Emanuel, St. John’s Sauers, St. Paul Wegan, St. Peter’s, Trinity Lutheran and Good Shepherd, all in Jackson County, Emmanuel in Lawrence County and Faith in Washington County. The organization also sponsored and helped build Lord of Life in Jennings County and Holy Cross in Scott County.
Lutheran Mission Federation’s main focuses are planting churches and spreading the Gospel. It accomplishes the latter by sponsoring The Lutheran Hour and Know Your Bible programs and Lutheran pastors reciting the Lord’s Prayer on local radio stations. Also, Rieckers and a circuit visitor do an interview three or four times a year on WSLM’s Coffee Club radio program to talk about the different seasons in the Lutheran church.
Plus, the group sponsors church projects and gives money to help churches fund their needs.