Fan Into Flame! – the Ablaze! campaign to raise $100 million by 2010 – had raised only $14.9 million in cash by the end of fiscal 2008. But fundraising costs totaled over $10 million, meaning that the entire campaign has cleared less than $5 million – in four years!
Of the $10 million in fundraising costs, a whopping $5.3 million was spent on fundraising consultants in the last three years alone. This despite the fact that Fan Into Flame! has its own large staff and fundraisers at LCMS headquarters.
Domestic Ablaze! funds have been given to dozens of churches that hide their Lutheran identity – not even including the word Lutheran in their name. One Ablaze!-funded church ran a sermon series during Lent on the topic of improving your sex life. Another ran billboards purporting to come from Satan with the phrase “Jefferson Hills Church Sucks.” One district gave Ablaze! Funds to start a Cub Scout troop, even though no religious outreach can take place in troop meetings. Ablaze! funds have even gone to churches that have been denied membership in Synod for failing to meet basic standards.
MISSIONS IN PRECIPITOUS DECLINE
A top-heavy ratio of over two St. Louis bureaucrats for every one missionary in the field. As of August 2008, the LCMS has only 29 pastors serving as foreign missionaries and 67 World Mission staff members sitting in St. Louis headquarters. The number of bureaucrats in St. Louis has more than doubled since Ablaze! began while the number of career missionaries has declined.
Pastors who serve as foreign missionaries are required to raise some 85 percent of their own expenses. In some cases this amounts to more than $100,000 each year – a difficult feat while serving remote lands. The LCMS only picks up 15 percent of the costs. New missionaries now have to collect 100 percent of their operating expenses.
Overhead for LCMS World Mission is reported to range as high as 65 percent, depending on the mission field. According to the Better Business Bureau, a charity should spend no more than 35% on fundraising.
Synod priorities and resources are skewed. While the number of actual pastors to preach the Gospel and administer the Sacraments in the field declines, the number of laypeople sent on week-long “missionary tourism” trips has skyrocketed to over 500 each year.