Every other month our CLC Board of Missions updates us with recent news from various mission fields.
The question is sometimes asked, “How did the CLC become involved with so many countries around the world?” The simple answer is that the Lord has graciously opened doors for us and uses our small church body to spread His Word in various parts of the world. But how does the Lord open these doors? How do we come into contact with new individuals and church bodies? What process do we follow to determine how to proceed with each new contact? A good example of how this process takes place can be seen in our recent dealings with a contact in Bangladesh, Pastor Monotosh Banarjee.
The Board of Missions does not actively seek out contacts with whom we might begin discussions. Contacts generally find us through the CLC website, one of our congregational websites, or personal contacts with individuals. After coming across the CLC website in the fall of 2016, Pastor Banarjee, wishing to learn more about the CLC, contacted President Eichstadt. Pastor Eichstadt sent this contact information to the Board of Missions, and Missionary Ohlmann began correspondence with Pastor Banarjee. The initial step is a screening email to try to determine the intent of the contact. This is done to try to weed out those who are simply after money from those who are sincere. If the contact seems sincere, correspondence continues.
In this case, correspondence continued by going through the Shadows and Substance adult instruction course, followed by a ten-lesson introduction to Lutheranism and the CLC based on the CLC Statement of Faith and Purpose. Pastor Banarjee has also completed the first few lessons of a Bible Interpretation course created for the Online Theological Studies website. Missionary Ohlmann reports the following: “Over the past several months, the contact in Bangladesh that I have been corresponding with seems very promising. He is very diligent and complete in the lessons that we have finished thus far. We communicate often as he works through the correspondence lessons and sends me regular reports on his work.”
Pastor Banarjee received a Bachelor of Theology degree from the College of Christian Theology in Bangladesh in 2009. This is an interdenominational school, but he had a few teachers with a Lutheran background from whom he learned Lutheran theology. Having become convinced that Lutheran theology is Biblical theology, he sought to find a true-teaching Lutheran church. His search brought him to the CLC.
Pastor Banarjee’s church body is called the Bangladesh Lutheran Church Mission (BLCM). This church body is made up of about 1200 first-generation Christians who have come out of Hinduism and Islam.
The next step in the process is a face-to-face visit, which Missionary Ohlmann hopes to accomplish in early 2019. This visit will give Missionary Ohlmann a chance to discuss Scripture with Pastor Banarjee in person and to observe the organizational structure of his church body. If all goes well, correspondence will continue, and additional visits will follow with the hope that doctrinal unity will be reached, and, Lord willing, fellowship will be declared.
While this is our sincere hope and prayer, a formal declaration of fellowship is still, most likely, years away. Most often it takes years of study and multiple face-to-face meetings before a declaration of fellowship is even discussed. In the meantime, we will continue to pray for Pastor Banarjee and for the BLCM that the Lord will bless them through their ongoing study of His Word of truth.
Robert Sauers is pastor of Luther Memorial Church in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin, and a member of the CLC Board of Missions